February is Heart Health Month, and an opportunity to take a moment to reflect on how you treat your ticker and become informed on the risks of cardiovascular disease, according to Dr. Latha Naganna.
Naganna is a cardiologist and director of the Cardiovascular Service Line at Carroll Hospital, where she was formerly the chief of cardiology. She has practiced in Carroll County for 13 years along with her father, Dr. Chitrachedu Naganna, who has been practicing in Carroll for 43 years.
In other words, she is dedicated to helping people keep their hearts healthy.
The Times recently caught up with Naganna to learn more about what she recommends people do during Heart Health Month.
A: As a cardiologist, being able to prevent and treat heart disease allows me to help a lot of people and make a difference in peoples lives. Having parents in the medical field and in cardiology was also a major factor.
Q: February is Heart Health Month. How do you recommend people think about their heart health during the month? Is it useful to have an annual reminder?
A: I think Heart Health month is a great way to raise awareness about the risk of heart disease and an opportunity for people to remember to take care of their heart. Heart disease can effect almost everyone regardless of race, sex, or age. This is the time to make sure everyone knows what their risk is by getting their blood pressure checked and getting lab tests for cholesterol and blood sugar. In addition everyone should reflect on their lifestyle choices as far as heart healthy diet and regular exercise and should work on stopping smoking.
Q: What are the core recommendations people need to keep in mind for good cardiovascular health? And what are the stakes if we don’t take care of our hearts?
A: Day to day choices are very important for long term cardiovascular health.
The foods that we choose to eat should be low in fat, low in carbohydrates/sugars, low in sodium and high in protein and fiber. A good start is taking the time to read and understand the nutritional information on food packaging.
Exercise is also very important and the recommendations are 30 to 60 minutes of vigorous exercise almost every day. Taking the time to eat right and maintain good physical health can significantly reduce risk of cardiovascular events.
Stopping smoking is also critical to reducing risk of cardiovascular disease in addition to many other health issues.
Q: Feb. 2 was National Wear Red Day to draw attention to women’s heart health specifically. What do women specifically need to know about their heart health? Are there differences between men and women in terms of signs of heart disease?
A: The onset of heart disease in women is slightly later in life as compared to men and can sometimes effect the smaller vessels in the heart requiring different treatment options.
Women should know that they are at risk and should be aware of what symptoms to look for. The typical symptoms of chest pressure and shortness of breath are common in both men and women but women are also prone to atypical symptoms such as extreme fatigue, pain in the abdomen or lower chest or dizziness. Any new or change in symptoms should always be evaluated by a physician.
Q: Are there any heart-health related events you recommend people attend, or books or films you ever recommend to patients?
A: Carroll Hospital has several events and lectures this month and information is available on their website at carrollhospitalcenter.org or by calling 410-871-7000.
Q: What are some of the things you wished patients knew, or knew sooner, when it came to their heart health?
A: Many patients are not aware of their family history or any of their personal risk factors for heart disease. Everyone should start being screened for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes in their 30s to 40s. Getting early treatment can delay or even prevent heart disease.
I also want to make sure patients know the devastating effects of smoking on health and that there are resources and medications to help them stop smoking. The damage done to the body from smoking is irreversible so smokers should try to quit as soon as possible.
Q: Valentine’s Day is coming up. Is love good for the heart? How about chocolate?
A: Feeling loved and having the support of family and friends is good for everyone and definitely helps reduce stress on the heart!