Health & Wellness

Make time for your heart health

by Eman Hamad, MD
Posted 6/6/24

There are many things that people don't know about the heart, and unfortunately, one of those things is just how many conditions can affect its function.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
Health & Wellness

Make time for your heart health


There are many things that people don't know about the heart, and unfortunately, one of those things is just how many conditions can affect its function. That's why we want to raise awareness of Stage A heart failure. By understanding your risk and working with your doctor and cardiologist to start treatment and lifestyle changes, you can stop this devastating disease and potentially save your heart.

When your heart works well, it pumps steadily to push blood to your lungs and every part of your body, giving your organs and tissues the oxygen they need to do their jobs. When the heart muscle becomes too weak or stiff to pump effectively, your body may not have enough oxygen. Called heart failure, reduced heart pumping also causes the blood to get backed up, collecting around your lungs or in your legs and feet. This can cause symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, and excess water weight.

Heart failure is a condition that occurs when your heart isn't able to pump enough blood for your body to function correctly. Stage A heart failure, also called pre-heart failure, is an important window of time when treatment and lifestyle changes can make an enormous difference – and potentially save your heart.

Talk with your doctor about heart health, and understand if you have risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary artery disease, or metabolic syndrome; if you've had alcohol-use disorder or taken heart-damaging medications (like some chemotherapy drugs) in the past; or if you have a family history of heart failure.

Your doctor can order blood tests and other imaging studies and scans, like an echocardiogram, electrocardiogram, or stress test, to better understand your heart health. If you have heart health risk factors, it's essential to have regular visits with your primary care physician and your cardiologist to monitor your health and manage treatment.

A key part of preventing heart failure is treating the underlying conditions that increase your risk. Your doctor may want you to take medication for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. They may also prescribe an ACE inhibitor or a beta blocker to reduce your cardiovascular risk.

Quitting smoking and avoiding alcohol and recreational drugs are also important steps you can take during this stage to prevent heart failure. Talk with your doctor about medications or other tools that can help. Getting support can make a big difference in helping you quit and stick with it.

Finally, making healthy lifestyle changes during pre-heart failure is critical to stopping the disease from progressing and protecting your heart. Stay active with daily moderate exercise, like walking. Avoid highly processed foods and red meat. Eat a heart-healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet, low in salt, refined sugar, and saturated fats, with plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and fish. Get at least seven hours of quality sleep each night. And take steps to reduce or manage stress, since high stress levels can trigger inflammation and increase blood pressure.

Dr. Eman Hamad, MD, is the director of Temple's Advanced Heart Failure & Transplant Program. She is now bringing academic medical care into the Chestnut Hill community at Temple Health - Chestnut Hill Hospital.