Salt Lake City, Utah (Good Things Utah) — Dr. Gordon Harkness, Medical Director with Optum joined Nicea today to talk about heart disease.

Heart disease is the number 1 cause of death for men, women, and most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. There are several risk factors that can increase your risk of developing heart disease or experiencing heart-related issues. Under your doctor’s supervision, developing a healthier lifestyle can go a long way toward decreasing your risk of heart problems. Screenings and tests can help you find issues, as well.

With February being American Heart Month, it’s certainly an ideal time to focus on these issues. But heart problems are so widespread we really don’t need a special occasion to have a conversation. Awareness has gone up over the past decades, but heart disease is still the number 1 cause of death for men and women in the country. It’s also the leading cause of death across most racial and ethnic groups in the United States, as well.

Several factors can increase your risk of developing heart disease or experiencing dangerous heart-related health issues like a heart attack or stroke. It’s estimated that about half of all Americans have at least 1 key risk factor for heart disease. Some of those include your lifestyle, age, or family history, or things like having high blood pressure or cholesterol, or if you smoke.

Certain health conditions can increase your risk of heart disease, too, including diabetes. When you have diabetes, your body’s insulin levels aren’t as effective as they should be, your body doesn’t make enough insulin, or both. Diabetes also increases your risk of developing heart disease, so proper management of the condition is critical for overall positive health outcomes.

First and foremost: Always talk with your doctor before you increase your activity levels, or make major lifestyle changes. But generally, developing a healthy lifestyle that considers your mental wellbeing, and includes things like getting enough sleep, managing stress, not smoking, staying active and eating right, are all things that may help decrease your risk of a heart condition.

The American Heart Association actually highlights three important things to remember when making healthy choices: Eat smart, move more, and be well.

  • Eat smart – Focus on eating healthy and nutritious foods.
    • According to the FDA, the core elements of a healthy diet include vegetables, grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy, lean proteins, beans, and nuts and oils.
  • Move more – Adults are encouraged to exercise at a moderate-intensity rate for 2.5 hours weekly.
  • And be well – Focus on getting quality sleep, managing stress, and social connectivity.

Warning signs of a heart attack include chest discomfort, in the center of the chest, that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like squeezing, or pressure. You may also experience discomfort in your upper body, in places like your arms, stomach, neck, back or jaw.

You might also experience shortness of breath, nausea, cold sweats or lightheadedness. The warning signs of a stroke can include speech difficulty, weakness on one side of your body, or one arm, and drooping or numbness in the fact.

The presence of any of these symptoms, while not necessarily indicating you’re definitely having a heart attack or stroke, is serious enough you should contact your doctor immediately, or 911 if it is an emergency.

It’s important to check with your doctor to see what health screenings are recommended for you, for heart health or any conditions. Not all screenings or tests are appropriate for everyone, but there are some key heart health tests.

A lipid profile measures your blood’s “good” and “bad” blood cholesterol. Untreated diabetes or high blood sugar can increase your risk of heart disease, so a blood glucose test can help screen you for diabetes. Blood pressure monitoring is also very important because high blood pressure can greatly increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.

Visit the Optum website for additional information or call (801) 982-3885.

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