February is tagged by the American Heart Association as the “heart month.” You probably notice all information or articles you may come across this month are all about “matters of the heart.”
While there is a vast spectrum of cardiovascular diseases, this article talks about the importance of prevention as early as possible not only for heart problems but the entirety of your health. Gone are the days when heart attack cases mostly happen to someone of age like 50 years old and above. As we emerge, so are the possibilities of cardiovascular diseases due to a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy habits. Case in point: my husband, who is only 47 years old and recently undergone a coronary angiogram procedure.
This traitor’s disease, also known as a non-communicable disease or a lifestyle disease, happens when you least expect it. In fact, according to our cardiologist, heart attack patients could be someone healthy and NOT those people we stereotyped as fast-food eaters or heavy smokers/drinkers. However, they have a higher risk of getting it.
But that is not the case with my husband. He doesn’t drink nor smoke. He is also vegan. So, it is disturbing to find out that he has an enlarged heart and coronary artery disease. We found out that he acquired this disease because of his uncontrolled hypertension and stressful lifestyle.
Disturbed and worried as it’s the number one killer disease in the Philippines and America, I researched and asked our cardiologist if there are symptoms or signs before having a heart attack. Surprisingly enough, the answers I got weren’t the ones we see on TV, where the attack happens when they are in the middle of an argument, then the character holds on his chest and falls on the floor. The symptoms are subtle that could be felt a week, days, or a month before the attack.
Doctor Noel Lapus, an IM- Cardiologist, and also an Interventional Cardiologist, had shared with me, how a real heart attack feels. He said, it feels like an “elephant standing on your chest and has a feeling of death.” I responded by saying, “I have an anxiety disorder and I always feel that way.” He smiled and said, “you’re still alive, though.”
Before we go deep into the heart of this article, let’s determine first what are the different kinds of cardiovascular diseases. According to the American Heart Association, World Health Organization, and Department of Health, these are:
1. Coronary Heart Disease – arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to our heart muscle. Therefore, coronary heart disease is when arteries are blocked by a waxy substance called ‘plaque.’
2. Cerebrovascular Disease – MedicalNewsToday.com defines this disease as a condition that affects the blood supply to the brain. Early symptoms include weakness and difficulty communicating. Symptoms of a cerebral hemorrhage include a sudden, severe headache.
3. Peripheral Arterial Disease – diseases of a blood vessel supplying the arms and legs.
4. Rheumatic Heart Disease – damage to the heart muscle and heart valves from rheumatic fever, most caused by streptococcal bacteria. This is why doctors are aggressive to give immediate cure when we have prolonged cough and colds.
5. Congenital Heart Disease – malformations of heart structure since birth.
6. Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism – blood clots in the leg veins, which can dislodge and move to the heart and lungs.
The next question would be: how do we prevent and how do we visit the hospital since it is still pandemic? My answer is simple. Utilize the power of technology.
The “new normal” may look like an inconvenience but it drives us to be more technology-inept. Ignorance is not an excuse for us not to adapt to drastic changes like this pandemic. Hospitals have provided safe places for non-covid-related diseases like our situation. We needed an emergency angiogram procedure and so our cardiologist referred us to The Medical City South Luzon. Although most hospitals have strict protocols, TMCSL went the extra mile just to accommodate us as it was a life-threatening case.
Therefore, if you need to have a check-up or procedure, don’t be scared because hospitals are doing their best to provide safe zones for all of us. Qualimed Hospital in Laguna has two emergency rooms: 1 with covid-like symptoms and the other one is for general diseases. Because we are naturally compassionate, hospitals, government, and other establishments have adjusted to our needs. The Medical City and other major hospitals, for instance, are offering mobile clinics and online consultations. As the dreadful virus continues to spread like wildfire in the Philippines, the local government extends its considerations and help to those who are in need.
How do we prevent Cardiovascular diseases?
This may sound like a broken record, but having an active lifestyle and proper nutrition plays a vital role in preventing this disease. Furthermore, ensuring your sugar and blood pressure are always normal plays an important role in having a healthy lifestyle. “Heart disease is the number 1 killer in the Philippines today,” says Dr. Rex Palma of Tagaytay Medical Center. According to him, the Philippine Heart Association devised simple steps or ways of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. They dubbed it as 5-2-1-0-0 (Do 52100 daily!).
What is 5-2-1-0-0?
The ‘52100’ was derived from the collective theories of the members of the Philippine Heart Association. The Cardiologists believe that heart diseases can alleviate through this initiative by spreading awareness with the help of the Department of Health and other organizations such as hospitals and diagnostic centers.
5 means you must have 5 servings of vegetables, fruits, and fish.
2 means 2 hours of screen time for the day.
1 means 1 hour of moderate physical activity like exercise.
0 means zero sugary foods and beverages
0 means stop smoking.
Where to get your hearts checked?
Most of the hospitals and diagnostic centers offer packages for the heart during February (or the whole year-round). Call or visit the nearest hospital in your area. The Medical City South Luzon is far from us. But that is the only hospital our cardio trusts for procedures like angiogram, angioplasty, open-heart surgery, pacemaker implantation, and more.
Doctor Noel Lapus, an IM and Interventional Cardiologist, has also shared the importance of having a positive outlook in life. He was the one who initiated my husband’s angiogram. What I appreciate most about him is he let me go inside the catheterization laboratory to discuss and set expectations. For someone who has an anxiety disorder like me, that gesture helped curbed my impending panic attacks.
Over To You
Your heart and health matter. So, this month of February or any time is a good time to gift someone fruits, vegetables, and heart-friendly food. Postpone “til death do you part.” Love your heart. Health is indeed wealth. Have a check-up.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored or advertorial article. All information and experience based on our recent hospitalization.