They’re words of warning so frequently shared most of us have become immune to them: Watch your salt and cholesterol, exercise often and get regular checks-ups. But as hundreds of thousands of people demonstrate all too tragically each year, no one is immune to the devastating reality of heart disease. In the year 2005 alone, 864,000 people in the U.S. died from heart-related illnesses, with more than 300,000 of those people dying before being admitted to the hospital. In short, the message of good heart health is nothing to turn a deaf ear or blind eye to.
That’s why on Tuesday, May 19, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. physicians and staff from the Heart Center at New Hanover Regional Medical Center will host a free cardiac risk assessment seminar at the NHRMC Surgical Pavilion, the first in a series of “Live & Learn” seminar events that will focus on a variety of healthcare topics.
Below, cardiologist Dr. William Buchanan, NHRMC’s Chief of Card-iology, responds to a few questions about cardiac disease and the upcoming seminar.
Q. Why is a seminar like this important?
A. It is vital for patients to take ownership over their own health and avoid catastrophic, preventable ill-nesses. This event is perfect for people wanting to learn how to live healthier lives.
Q. What kinds of signs and symptoms may indicate cardiac diease?
A. Any type of exertional chest pain or exertional shortness of breath may represent coronary artery disease or blockages in the arteries supplying blood to the heart. These
Palpitations or unexplained rapid heart rates may indicate an electrical problem with the heart and need to be evaluated also.
Q. What’s one fact people may not know about cardiovascular disease?
A. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in women, and their symptoms are sometimes not typical for heart-related problems. More important, females are more likely to die from a heart attack than males.
Medical Minute Video:
Online Heart Risk Assessment
A Patient's Story:Tim Dols
Tim Dols, a cardiac patient at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, stressed the importance of listening to your body and not being afraid to ask your doctor questions about health concerns.
“There’s no such thing as a stupid question,” said Dols, 66, as he pedaled through his prescribed cardio routine on the exercise bike in NHRMC’s Cardiac Rehab Center, a routine he completes faithfully three times a week since his heart surgery in February. “Asking a stupid question saved my life.
” A retired Episcopal priest, Dols began exercising last year to improve his health, and a routine physical showed positive improvements, including a 20-pound weight loss. On the way out the door of his primary care physician’s office, Dols casually mentioned that he had been experiencing slight pain beneath his left shoulder during exercise.
“The pain was mild, like a pulled muscle, and it went away after exercise,” said Dols, who was surprised when his physician immediately ordered a nuclear stress test. “I didn’t realize I had been experiencing symptoms of heart disease,” he said.
Dols was quickly referred to NHRMC cardiologist Dr. Peter Wiegman, who determined that Dols was experiencing serious blockages that would require immediate surgery.
Two months later, Dols is well on the road to recovery from surgery and a healthier future. He continues to strengthen his heart with regular exercise and has made significant changes in his diet, such as reducing portion sizes and avoiding butter and salt.
Dols encourages others to take advantage of opportunities to learn about the prevention, detection and treatment of heart disease, such as the NHRMC “Live & Learn” seminar on May 19. “Having the chance to ask the right people your personal questions about heart health is a great opportunity,” he said.