Memorial Regional Health: Prevention and attention key to women’s hearts

Memorial Regional Health
Cardiovascular disease in women is common and dangerous, but can be prevented with some mindful lifestyle adjustments.
Courtesy photo

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 health risk to women in the United States. One in three women’s deaths are caused by cardiovascular disease — more than all forms of cancer combined.

Which is why keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy may be the most important thing you can do to stay well.

The good news, said Kelsie Bond, a Memorial Regional Health Physician Assistant specializing in cardiology care, is that a little prevention and attention go a long way to safeguarding cardiovascular health.

Know your risk factors

If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, or if you smoke, are overweight or inactive, you’re at risk for cardiovascular disease. Older age and family history are also important risk factors.

If you have any risk factors, see your primary-care provider for a checkup. They’ll take your blood pressure and may order blood tests to measure cholesterol and blood sugar. They’ll also discuss your family history, health habits and any symptoms you may be experiencing.

“Many people are surprised to learn that their blood pressure is high,” Bond said. “They may be having headaches, dizziness, vision changes or generalized fatigue, but they don’t realize it’s because their blood pressure is elevated.”

Depending on risk factors and symptoms, sometimes further testing is warranted. MRH offers EKGs, echocardiograms and stress tests on-site. Bond, who has been a general PA for five years and has focused on cardiology for the last two years, typically sees cardiology patients first to conduct these screenings.

Then once all the test results are in and Bond has reviewed them, patients are seen by cardiologist Dr. Frank Laws, who practices at Valley View Heart & Vascular Center in Glenwood Springs and travels to MRH one day a month to see patients in Craig. Having test results in hand before the appointment with Dr. Laws helps ensure the visit is beneficial.

Take positive steps

Many cardiovascular disease risk factors can be improved. Prescribed medication can help keep blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol under control. MRH primary-care providers can also offer assistance in quitting smoking, losing weight and getting more physical activity.

“As adults, we generally know what we have to do make our bodies more healthy,” Bond said. “The hard part is the change. Changing your diet is hard. Quitting smoking is hard. Adding an exercise routine is hard.”

So Bond suggests to her patients that they start small. “It takes two weeks to create a habit,” she said. “Focus on one thing at a time instead of the whole picture. Making too many changes at once can be discouraging, and people often get overwhelmed.”

Pay attention

In addition to practicing good basic self-care — eating well, exercising at least 30 minutes a day, getting an annual exam — Bond urges women to pay attention to their stress levels and their bodies.

“If any new symptoms come up, see your provider,” she said. Women’s heart disease symptoms can be different than men’s. For example, women who are having a heart attack often report jaw pain, right-sided arm pain, back pain, nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness and/or sweating instead of the crushing chest pain that is typically thought to be most indicative of a heart attack.

Women’s cardiovascular health at MRH

To make an appointment for a general wellness exam or cardiovascular screening with Kelsie Bond, PA-C, call Craig Medical Clinic at 970-826-2400. Cardiovascular disease in women is common and dangerous, but can be prevented with some mindful lifestyle adjustments.

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