Founder’s Forum: Be An Advocate For Your Heart

JB Lester

By J.B. Lester

February is heart month. It’s always a good time to remind everyone to keep an eye on your heart and be an advocate for your health. They say that knowledge is power, and I encourage you to research information about high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, especially if you have a family history of these diseases.

How old you are weighs heavily on heart health. The older you are the more you need to monitor your cardiovascular health. I was only 54 when I was diagnosed with Aortic stenosis (heart valve disease) and I had to have open heart surgery to have a new Aortic valve implanted. It’s been 17 years since then and my heart valve replacement has been a life saver. Heart valve disease can be easily detected with an echocardiogram. Your doctor might hear a murmur at your annual physical. The older you are, the more likely you are to have heart valve disease as heart valves accumulate calcium over the years which makes the heart valves stiffer and less efficient when the blood flows through the heart.

Another heart related condition are arrhythmias. If your heart beats too fast it’s called bradycardia, or slow heart rate. Except for elite athletes, your heart rate should be between 60 and 90 beats per minute. If your heart beats too fast, it’s called tachycardia. If your heart normally beats too fast or too slow, check with your doctor to see what the cause might be. Another heart rate abnormality is called Atrial Fibrillation or AFib, meaning your heart is beating irregularly and could lead to stroke. This also tends to be mostly in older adults. I recently was diagnosed with this condition and had to undergo a procedure called cardioversion in which my heart was shocked back into rhythm. All seems fine now and my risk of stroke has been greatly diminished. I also take a blood thinner to help reduce the risk of stroke.

The point is, your heart is the center of your body’s universe. It is the pump of life. You need to take good care of your heart and get regular medical checkups. Keep your blood pressure under control to make it easier on your heart to work properly.

If you have a family history of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease or heart valve disease, it is even more important to monitor your heart health. Get plenty of exercise, eat a heart healthy diet and reduce the stress in your life. And you will be around to play kickball with your grandchildren, too.