5 Things You Should Know About Heart Health

By Ernst Lamothe Jr.

Cardiologist Anne Curtis is a distinguished professor of medicine at the University at Buffalo.

The heart remains a remarkable organ at the center of our bodies that provides life and vitality.

The biological marvel is responsible for pumping blood and oxygen through our bodies. Ensuring heart health can be paramount to overall well-being even with healthy individuals.

That was the case recently when Los Angeles Lakers superstar Lebron James’ son, Bronny, suffered a cardiac incident. While details of the situation remain private, it shows the importance of having your heart health checked, recognizing family history and taking care of yourself. One person dies every 33 seconds from cardiovascular disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Heart disease is the No. 1 killer and it is something that we have a lot of control over. There are so many things we can do to prevent issues and have a positive impact on your heart,” said cardiologist Anne Curtis, distinguished professor of medicine at the University at Buffalo.

Curtis talks about five essential topics with the heart including the significance of heart health, common symptoms of cardiac issues and dispelling myths.

1 — Heart conditions

Often called the engine of the body, a healthy heart ensures the efficient delivery of oxygen and nutrients to all cells, tissues and organs and maintains their proper function. A robust cardiovascular system contributes to increased energy levels, a stronger immune system and an overall enhanced quality of life. On the other hand, neglecting heart health can lead to a host of serious conditions including heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.

Recognizing the early signs of potential heart problems is crucial for prompt diagnosis and effective treatment. Common symptoms include chest discomfort, which manifest as a sensation of pressure, squeezing or pain in the chest. In addition, shortness of breath during mild physical activity or while at rest could be indicative of heart problems.

“You should also look out for fainting without any warning. That may be an indication that something is going on that you need checked,” said Curtis. “Sometimes pain or discomfort may radiate from the jaw and to the arm when you start feeling symptoms. You also want to watch if you feel like your heart is skipping a beat or racing too quickly.”

2 — Myths

Many times people don’t take potential heart issues seriously because of various myths. The notion that only older adults are at risk has been proven incorrect because heart issues can affect people of all ages, including young adults and even children.

Another myth involves heart disease affecting only men.

“People don’t realize that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women. Women are equally susceptible,” said Curtis.

3 — Unhealthy habits

Curtis talks about eliminating one habit which she believes would universally decrease cardiac death and worldwide — smoking. The addictive habit damages blood vessels, increases the risk of plaque buildup and contributes to heart disease.

“If I had the power to wave a magic wand and either stop people from starting to smoke or convince them not to smoke that would be the largest factor in improving the issue nationwide because of the damage smoking does to your heart,” said Curtis.

A diet high in saturated and trans fats, salt and sugar can also contribute to high blood pressure, obesity and cholesterol imbalance. A lack of physical activity or overall sedentary lifestyle weakens the heart and cardiovascular system. Regular exercise promotes circulation, strength and overall heart health.

4 — Lebron James’ son

Prioritizing heart health is a fundamental aspect of maintaining overall well-being. Understanding the symptoms and addressing the factors that contribute to cardiac issues continues to be an essential step toward a healthier heart. When LeBron James’ son had a cardiac arrest, it shocked the sports world and the casual observer.

“People don’t realize that even someone athletic can have a cardiac incident without contact. This was different from what happened to Buffalo Bills’ player Damar Hamlin where a sudden violent blow to the chest caused his cardiac arrest. But Bronny is very fortunate because if they had not shocked his heart back into rhythm he might not have survived,” added Curtis.

5 — Positives

As Curtis mentioned, many heart ailments are preventable because it deals with an individual’s everyday habits. There are various good habits that she suggests everyone incorporate into their lives.

“I tell patients that you must keep a low-fat, lean mean diet that features a good amount of fruits and vegetables,” she said. “Eating this way helps keep your cholesterol at a good level. I also recommend exercising because it can help you control your weight and blood pressure. Physical activity can help you have a strong heart.”