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updated: 3/6/2013 12:12 PM

What you should know about your heart health

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  • Dr, Raymond Kawasaki, MD

    Dr, Raymond Kawasaki, MD

Dr, Raymond Kawasaki, MD

Heart disease is one of the major health issues facing Americans today, but it also affects millions of patients world-wide. There are a range of different problems that could directly affect your heart including diseases of blood vessels, the heart rhythm, the valves or structural problems you may be born with; not to mention other disease processes including diabetes, high blood pressure, and hormonal issues. It is very important to consult your doctor if you experience symptoms that could be heart related, including chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, lightheadedness, or fainting.

The assessment of risk factors is very important and although some are uncontrollable such as male gender, family history, being postmenopausal status, and being of certain age, there are controllable factors as well.

Controllable risk factors include:

• Smoking

• Poor diet

• Stress

• High blood pressure

• Inactive lifestyle

• Obesity

• High cholesterol

• Uncontrolled diabetes

• Depression

Quitting smoking has a huge impact on reducing your risk of heart attack, improves your lung function, and can prolong your life. Switch to eating a colorful diet with fresh fruits and vegetables that contain the beneficial nutrients, bioflavonoids, and antioxidants. Protein sources with high omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, flaxseed, soy, nuts, and legumes are good for your heart and blood vessels.

Exercise consisting of aerobic activity several times a week for 20-30 minutes at a time is good for relieving stress, weight control, cholesterol management, depression, and blood sugar control. You don't need to train for a marathon to get benefits. Simply walking at a pace that is a little more than casual for you can help your health. Yoga and meditation are also great stress-busters, and can help to control weight and improve your well-being.

Prevention is key and addressing your symptoms and risks can help to maximize your chances of staying heart healthy.

Dr. Raymond N. Kawasaki, MD, specializes in Cardiac Electrophysiology, Cardiovascular Diseases, and Internal Medicine. He received his education at Northwestern University Medical School. He has offices in Hoffman Estates and Barrington.