Know the Red Flags for Heart Disease Before It’s Too Late

(BPT) – It’s no secret February is all about hearts, but there’s more than just the candy kind to think about this time of year. It’s also American Heart Health Month, and for good reason. Heart disease kills about 665,000 Americans each year. That accounts for one of every four deaths in the United States. With simple preventative steps that anyone can take, you can reduce your risk of heart disease.

“A healthy heart starts with a healthy diet, regular exercise, avoiding tobacco and keeping up with preventive care visits,” said Dr. Alex Chen, Chief Medical Officer at Health Net. “By empowering more people to take control of their heart health, we can continue to improve the health of all Americans who may be susceptible to heart disease.”

What are the signs and symptoms of heart disease?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of heart disease vary depending on the type of heart disease. For many people, chest discomfort is the first sign of a heart attack, but it’s not the only one.

Someone experiencing a heart attack may have several symptoms including:

  • Chest pain or discomfort that doesn’t go away in a few minutes
  • Pain in the jaw, neck or back
  • Pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulders
  • Shortness of breath

How is heart disease diagnosed?

Your doctor can perform several tests to diagnose heart disease, including many which are non-invasive.

  • Electrocardiograms (ECG or EKG)
  • Chest X-rays
  • Exercise stress tests
  • Coronary angiograms

How is heart disease treated?

In California, Health Net takes a unique approach to help its members.

“We assign clinical pharmacists to our members who are at high risk of heart failure,” says Dr. Chen. “They call our members regularly to discuss their medication regimen and work with their pharmacy and provider to recommend optimizations of their therapy, which leads to improved health outcomes.”

Health Net pharmacists also work with members to:

  • Improve adherence of medications
  • Create multiple avenues of access to care, and
  • Motivate members to make healthy lifestyle choices.

In addition, care coordinators and case managers help members transition back home after leaving the hospital following heart-related surgery. To stay in touch, simple reminder messages like the below are sent to the member’s smartphone.

  • Go for 15- to 30-minute walks today (as long as they’re approved by their PCP)
  • Try to add as much color as possible to one meal per day. For example, add tomatoes, carrots, peppers or green beans
  • Food Challenge! Aim to not eat any fried food today
  • Remember to take your medication

As we prepare to celebrate American Heart Month this year, it’s important to remember that heart health starts with lifestyle choices we make. The good news is heart disease is preventable in most cases. By making healthy choices like not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood sugar and cholesterol and most importantly, getting a regular check-up, you can ensure you keep your heart healthy for years to come.