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Keeping your heart healthy

February 11, 2013

Michelle Holmgren, Public Affairs & Community Relations Specialist
(Office) 413-967-2296 (Cell) 413-237-6743


Ware (February 8, 2013) - February is American Heart Month; a month to spread awareness about the importance of heart health. Each year, countless American families are impacted by heart disease and stroke. Although its risk factors can be prevented or controlled, it is still the leading cause of death for all Americans, and accounts for $1 out of every $6 dollars spent on health care.
“Fortunately there are many steps people can take to try to prevent heart disease,” said Dr. James R. Cook, Cardiologist and Director of the Cardiac Electrophysiology Program at Baystate Medical Center. “Although you can’t change some risk factors like family history, sex or age you can avoid heart disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle.”
“By following these heart healthy recommendations, you can reduce your risk factors for heart disease, heart attach and stroke,” said Dr. Cook who cares for patients in Springfield and also sees patients at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware.
Watch Your Diet. A healthy diet can help to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Choose a balanced diet, containing plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, oily fish, starchy foods such as whole grains. Avoid foods like biscuits, cakes, pastries and dairy products that are high in saturated fats and sugar.
Know Your Numbers - People with high blood pressure run a higher risk of having a stroke or a heart attack. High levels of cholesterol in the blood can lead to fatty deposits in your coronary arteries that increase your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and diseases that affect the circulation. You can help lower your cholesterol level by exercising and eating foods high in fiber.
Watch Your Weight - Carrying a lot of extra weight as fat can greatly affect your health and increases the risk of life-threatening conditions such as coronary heart disease and diabetes. If you’re over weigh, slowly make healthy changes to what you eat, and try to become more active.

Get active - Aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a day. If this seems too daunting, start off gently and build up gradually. Keeping fit not only benefits your physical health - it improves your mental health and wellbeing too.

Stop smoking. -. If you are a smoker, you are twice as likely to have a heart attack than a non-smoker. But from the moment you stop smoking, the risk of heart attack starts to reduce. Quitting smoking is the single most important thing a person can do to live longer.

Learn to manage your stress levels – Since you can’t avoid stress altogether, it’s crucial to learn to deal with it in a healthy way for the sake of your mind and your heart health. Talk with family, friends or other trusted advisors about your concerns and stresses and ask for their support.
“Make sure you can recognize the early signs of coronary heart disease, said Dr. Cook. “The key to surviving a heart attack is to recognize that you might be having one, and getting medical help as rapidly as possible. The classic symptom of an MI is an intense, sometimes squeezing, pressure or pain in or around the chest, often radiating to the jaw or left arm, and sometimes accompanied by profuse sweating, or a nearly overwhelming sense of fear or impending doom,” said Dr Cook. “Unfortunately, you can't always count on having this classic pattern. Sometimes the discomfort may be relatively mild, and may be felt in the back, abdomen, shoulders, or either or both arms. Unexplained sudden shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, or merely a feeling of heartburn, may be the only symptoms,” notes Dr. Cook. “These "atypical" symptoms may not make you think of a heart problem, and may keep you from seeking medical help. Women appear to experience "atypical" symptoms more often than men.
Dr. Cook provides cardiology care at Baystate Medical Practice- Quabbin Adult Medicine office, located at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital. He is part of a growing multi specialty group of medical specialists from Baystate Medical Center who see patients in Ware. To make an appointment with Dr. Cook at Baystate Medical Practices-Mary Lane Specialists call 413-967-2860.