Tips to get heart healthier

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WE’RE talking about our physical tickers today. We’ll save emotional for Valentine’s Day. Heart disease kills more Americans than any other disease. Every 25 seconds, an American will have a “coronary event,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every 30 seconds, an American will die from heart disease, the American Heart Association tells us. If history repeats itself, 750,000 people will have a heart attack this year; for about two-thirds of those, it will be their first.
As much as 70 percent of heart disease can be prevented by controlling major risk factors, says Parin Parikh, an interventional cardiologist with Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. With February designated American Heart Month, we asked Parikh and other experts what they would like normal, everyday people like you and me to know about heart disease and how to prevent it. Here’s what they had to say:
They may seem basic, but bear repeating: smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, poor diet, obesity and sedentary lifestyle, Parikh says. In addition, “other diseases seem to increase your risk of heart disease.” These include chronic kidney disease, HIV and such autoimmune diseases as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or psoriasis. Which leads to this:
Psoriasis, with its telltale signs of rough, red, itchy patches of skin, goes far deeper than cosmetics. It’s an inflammatory disease, and thus, can affect your entire body — including your heart.
“We know with people at any given age what coronary calcium you’re supposed to see or not see,” says Baylor University Medical Center cardiologist Jeffrey Schussler, who led a recent study on this. “A 40-year-old woman shouldn’t have any coronary artery calcium. Almost every 90-year-old man has a little or more.”
But in their research, “Middle-aged to younger ages who shouldn’t have a whole lot of plaque seemed to have more than their fair share,” he says. What made those stand out?
Says Baylor dermatologist and psoriasis expert Alan Menter: “What I’m telling patients now is ‘I want to get your skin better. I want to get your joints better. Improving your skin and joints hopefully will reduce the risk of cardiac artery disease.’ It’s a very sensitive issue.” Chad McMinn, one of Dr. Menter’s patients, finds the psoriasis/heart disease link “interesting” and “scary,” but is channeling his concern in a positive way.
“When I left Dr. Menter’s office, I called my wife and said I’m going to schedule an appointment with a nutritionist,” says McMinn, 38. That’s what Cooper Clinic cardiologist Nina Radford stresses to her patients and anyone else. “I have been in social settings where the topic of what I do — preventing heart disease — comes up,” she says. “I’ve had people respond that they are really not worried about heart disease because cancer runs in their family.”

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