SAN ANTONIO – February is American Heart Month. During this time, it is important to understand, prevent and treat heart disease, which is the leading cause of death across our country.
The CDC says heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions. You can greatly reduce your risk for heart disease through lifestyle changes.
Dr. Dawn Hui, cardiac surgeon at UT Health San Antonio, joined Leading SA to talk about the disease and what lifestyle habits can help prevent it.
“The first thing to know about heart disease is that it is the leading cause of death in the United States, and that’s true for both men and women. Heart disease is a general term for any condition that affects the function or the structure of the heart, and most people are familiar with the most common type of heart disease — coronary heart disease, which is what causes heart attacks. People who are more prone to have heart disease are those who have diabetes, high blood pressure, use tobacco, or who have a strong family history of heart disease. But we know that heart disease can affect people that don’t have any of those risk factors,” Dr. Hui said.
Heart disease has been a problem for San Antonio and the United States historically, and the pandemic didn’t help, Dr. Hui said.
“What we’ve seen in the last two years is that pandemic-related changes in lifestyle have caused many of us to become more sedentary, myself included. Activities like meetings, classes, interviews like this that used to be in-person are now online, so people are sitting still for much longer and being less active. And because of social distancing, our hobbies have shifted from more active social events to sedentary activities like watching television or having virtual get-togethers. We know that 80% of cardiovascular deaths are preventable with changes in lifestyle, and physical activity is one of the most powerful ways that we can do that,” Dr. Hui said.
Dr. Hui said if you have a very strong family history of heart disease or certain risk factors, it may be important to get those checked early. Talking to your doctor is the best way to get answers to those questions.
There are ways to help prevent heart disease though, Dr. Hui said.
“Not only is physical activity important for heart health, it has really strong positive effects for mental health, which is so important during this pandemic. We recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate activity daily, and getting physical doesn’t require a gym. There are many creative ways to use your environment, such as using the stairs in your building, walking in your neighborhood. San Antonio has a great system of parks and greenway trails and with cold weather indoors, you can walk or run in place or do jumping jacks. If you have children or grandchildren playing tag or dancing to music with them or great family activities, and it’s a great way to help set those habits early for the little ones,” Dr. Hui said.
You can watch the full interview with Dr. Hui in the video player above.
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