with your health in mind

Dr. Glenda Newell-Harris in white coat

A Healthy Heart: The Ultimate Expression of Self-Love

Image by Freepik

Greetings, friends!

Listen to your body. If things feel different, they are different.

As February unfolds with the celebration of love, there’s a silent but crucial matter of the heart that calls for our attention: our cardiovascular health. Amidst love songs and heart-shaped candies, February is American Heart Month—a time to focus on nurturing the very center of our being that keeps us tuning into the beat of our own drums.

I can’t help but think about a colleague, an active professional with a passion for life, who discovered she had a broken heart. But it wasn’t in the metaphorical sense. A routine visit to her primary care physician and then a cardiologist uncovered an abnormality during the heart exam. She was literally diagnosed with Broken Heart Syndrome, also known as Takatsubo Cardiomyopathy. It’s a condition that can mimic a heart attack but doesn’t involve blocked arteries. Surprisingly, this condition predominantly affects postmenopausal women.

Take Symptoms Seriously

Heart disease is the leading cause of death across genders and ethnicities in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, when symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath arise, it’s not the moment for a leisurely drive or a casual visit to an urgent care facility.

These are red flags that demand an immediate call for an ambulance. And here’s a crucial note: women might experience additional symptoms, like neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back, or abdominal discomfort. The bottom line—listen to your body. If things feel different, they are different, and seeking medical attention is paramount.

What You Can Do

The silver lining in this cardiac cloud is that research and clinical trials offer us so many new advances in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease. Now more than ever before, early detection can be your lifeline. And importantly, you have more power than you know. My colleague’s doctors said that stress brought on the condition. The literature also shows that sleep deprivation is a contributing culprit. Both are often overlooked because for many, stress and lack of sleep are a way of life for working professionals, stay-at-home parents, and even caregivers.

So in addition to eating lots of fruits and vegetables, exercising 3-5 days/week, and managing your chronic medical conditions, remember these five tips to avoid serious heartache in 2024:

Your health deserves a spot on the calendar.

  • Know your medical history. Dive into your and your family’s health background, such as past illnesses, medications, surgeries, genetic conditions, and other major health events.
  • Book and keep your regular appointments. Routine visits to your primary care physician are your first line of defense. They can catch the subtle whispers of heart issues early on.
  • No cutting health corners. Telemedicine is convenient, but not for everything. Some matters, like heart health assessments, demand a personal touch. Make time or request a face-to-face encounter.
  • Invest time in you. It’s easy to prioritize work and family, but your health deserves a spot on the calendar. Schedule down time, time with friends, and seek counseling for stress, if needed.
  • Listen to your body. Those subtle signals matter. Unusual fatigue, shortness of breath, or chest discomfort—don’t let them go unheard. They could be the key to addressing potential heart issues promptly.

As we leap into this February with an extra day at our disposal that only comes around every four years, let’s celebrate love, but also invest the gift of time to the health of our heart. Because my friend, a healthy heart is the ultimate expression of self-love.

With your health in mind,

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