Heart Month: Make Your Heart Health a Priority

Sponsored by Cardiovascular Institute of the South

Did you know that heart disease claims more lives than all forms of cancer combined?

February is American Heart Month. Now more than ever, your heart health should be a priority. Don’t ignore risk factors and symptoms that could affect your heart health. Heart disease accounts for 25 percent of deaths in our state. Particularly in Louisiana, the prevalence of obesity and diabetes means that our communities are at greater risk of heart disease. Knowing your risk factors and maintaining visits with your cardiologist are some of the best ways to ensure your heart stays in tip-top shape.

It is never too early to see a cardiologist, as heart disease can strike anyone at any age. In fact, cardiovascular disease is becoming more prevalent in those under the age of 60. It can also be a silent killer, with no symptoms until a heart attack or stroke occur. That is why it is important to determine your risk factors now and take preventative measures to lessen your risk.

Additionally, when you think of your cardiovascular system, you most likely think of your heart and your blood vessels. However, your cardiovascular system extends to the arms and legs as well, and includes veins as well as arteries.

Cardiovascular conditions in the legs are usually identified by leg pain, cramping or discoloration. Plaque buildup may narrow arteries and reduce blood flow to the legs, leading to peripheral artery disease, or PAD. Just like clogged arteries in the heart, clogged arteries in the legs increases the risk for a heart attack or stroke. Other symptoms may include numbness, coldness, sores that won’t heal, discoloration, hair loss, shiny skin or weak pulse in the legs or feet. If you have heart disease, you have a one in three chance of developing PAD. A simple, painless ultrasound called an ankle brachial index (ABI) can diagnose PAD. Once detected, treatment can reduce symptoms, improve mobility and quality and life, and prevent heart attack, stroke, and amputation.

Damaged veins in the legs can also cause cardiovascular complications. Venous disease is a condition when the veins in the legs do not properly return blood back to the heart. Weakened veins cause blood to flow backwards, causing blood to pool in the legs. This leads to visible, painful or swollen veins, including varicose or spider veins. Symptoms may include swelling or heaviness in legs, leg pain, discoloration, protruding veins, dry or weeping eczema, ulcers, restless legs or itching. Diagnosing venous disease relies on a combination of symptoms, physical examination and diagnostic tests. To confirm the presence of venous disease, a physician may use tests such as ultrasound, computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging to visualize how blood travels through the veins. Venous disease can be treated with lifestyle modifications, compression stockings or medication.

If you think you may have any form of cardiovascular disease in the heart or legs, it is important to consult a cardiovascular specialist. The physicians at Cardiovascular Institute of the South (CIS) are experts in treating all forms of cardiovascular disease in the heart and legs. To schedule an appointment near you, visit www.cardio.com.