Not just a matter of the heart


How to Avoid a Date Night with Heart Disease

We’ve all heard the stories. The tightening pain starts in the chest and then moves to the arm. You become short of breath and start to sweat. Sometimes the pain shoots up the jaw, sometimes there isn’t a sign, and sometimes, there have been signs for a while. Maybe you’re just lucky you didn’t have one of these heart attacks considering that heart disease is still the number one killer in America.

Those who have experienced a near fatal date night with heart disease and lived to tell about it know that this malady is no laughing matter. The heart attack is just one of the many things that could go wrong. The heart attack is one of the first things that come to mind when thinking about heart disease. “Valve disease, does not mean you will have one. If you have Angina Pectoris you have coronary artery disease, and if you don’t take care of it, the blockage will end up closing and give you a heart attack,” states Dr. Jorge Gonzalez, a board-certified cardiologist and Polk County Medical Association member.

According to, “Coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common form of heart disease, is caused by a narrowing or clogging of the coronary arteries that supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients. CAD can cause angina (chest pain), myocardial infarction (heart attack), and cardiac sudden death (caused by severely abnormal and ineffective beating of the heart).”

Dr. Gonzalez explains, “The heart is mostly a pump, its job is to pump blood, which carries the oxygen to the body. All the cells need oxygen to survive. The heart consists of four chambers. The right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs. The blood that gives the oxygen comes back to the right side of the heart. The right side goes to the lungs so that it can get oxygen back to the red cells, then from the lungs to the left side. The left ventricle is the big pump of the heart. It has to pump with enough force to get to all the smaller and larger arteries, arterials, and capillaries. That is where the oxygen is delivered to the cells. The left ventricle gets oxygen through three coronary arteries. The coronary arteries are important because they supply blood and oxygen to the heart.”

One concerning dilemma for physicians is when they medically treat patients who finally begin feeling better after they have had a heart attack and recover. Some patients will stop taking their medications, go back to their old ways and begin treating their bodies poorly again. Dr. Gonzalez says, “If you have had a heart attack, you should see a cardiologist once a year.”


So how do you avoid heart disease?


The first step is a given, be healthy. Don’t treat your body as if it’s junk and take care what you put in it. Dr. Gonzalez suggests, “Once you turn twenty you should have a cholesterol check. If it’s normal you don’t need to have it checked again for five years. Fasting lipid profile, triglycerides, total cholesterol level, and two components of cholesterol. When considering the HDL cholesterol (high density lipo protein, the good one), the higher that number the less chance for women greater than fifty and men greater than forty to have problems. As for the LDL cholesterol (low density lipo protein, the bad one), if too much of it is in the blood stream it gets deposited into arteries. Bad cholesterol can get deposited into the brain and into the carotid artery, which can cause a stroke. High levels can affect inflammatory changes and bad cholesterol can create blockages over many years time.”


Exercise is also key. Dr. Gonzalez suggests you get your heart rate up to 70% of target heart rate. To calculate that figure it is 220 minus your age times .7. It’s important to see your doctor before you begin. He suggests starting gradually, eventually setting a goal of five days a week at 30 to 40 minutes a day. You don’t have to jog or run, but a fast walk, treadmill, bicycle or swimming, anything that get’s the heart rate up for a sustained amount of time is important.


Quit smoking, don’t do drugs, and avoid excessive amounts of alcohol.


The food you consume is important. Avoid coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, cocoa butter, basically the high saturated fats. Read labels: sodium, which causes hypertension is hidden in foods you wouldn’t expect like cereal and cheeses. Keep your picks to low saturated fats and low transfats. Avoid fried foods and take the fat off your meat before you cook it as well as the skin. When preparing foods, use nonstick pans, cooking sprays, and small amounts of cooking oil. The healthiest diet will include vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.


With your cholesterol in check, you can begin a lifelong courtship with health. By starting early you can change your approach to health and raising your good cholesterol to reverse years of damage. Preventative measures will help you keep heart disease at bay. If you have been diagnosed with heart disease, it’s important to continue seeing your doctor. Medication is important, especially if you have been diagnosed with an artery that has some blockage. Not all blockages need surgery. In fact, Dr. Gonzalez says, “Not every blockage needs to be treated with bypass surgery or stent. For less than 70 percent, it’s just not needed.” He further clarifies that medication works very well for most of these cases.

There are factors however, that cannot be changed. If you have a family member such as your father, mother or sibling who has heart disease, your risk factor goes up. Another risk is being born with defects in the heart. Also, your risk for heart disease increases with age for both men and women. Keeping your own health in check will help tone down those risk factors.



story by Dianne Nutting



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