Monday, March 12, 2012

Ask Us Anything: How Can I Reduce My Risk of Heart Problems?

"I'm 56 years old, overweight and working diligently to lose it. My father had bypass surgery 25 years ago and is still going strong. Is there any way to find out if I have heart problems before it is too late? I don't have health insurance."

Dr. Mrinalini Meesala, Cardiologist, Responds:

The best treatment for heart disease is prevention.

The common risk factors for heart disease include hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight and a family history of heart disease.

Since you have a family history of heart disease / bypass surgery, it is important to recognize and treat these modifiable risk factors.

The first step would be to follow a heart-healthy diet that is rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grain products, beans, seeds, nuts, fish and poultry. Heart-healthy diets also include minimizing the intake of red meats, sugars, added sugars, cholesterol, saturated fats and high sodium foods.

I would also recommend a good exercise program that incorporates at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. This includes day-to-day activities such as walking, gardening, raking leaves, house cleaning, dancing or light weightlifting. The goal is to achieve a BMI (body mass index) between 18.5 to 25. (Click here for a BMI calculator.)

Because high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, make sure that you monitor your cholesterol levels. Catholic Health offers free screenings throughout the community. Click here for upcoming dates.

There are tests available to detect heart disease in individuals with underlying risk factors and symptoms. Stress testing involves exercising on a treadmill or a bicycle with simultaneous electrocardiographic or echocardiographic monitoring. However, the appropriate testing would be based on the evaluation and recommendations from a cardiologist.

Because you don't have insurance, you may qualify for Catholic Health's Healthcare Assistance Program, which offers healthcare services at a reduced cost.

– Dr. Mrinalini Meesala

Dr. Meesala specializes in cardiology. She sees patients at 1616 Kensington Ave. in Buffalo. For an appointment, please call (716) 834-3278.

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