Experts Urge Residents to Practice Healthy Heart Habits

HYANNIS – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, health experts from Cape Cod Healthcare are urging residents to not forget about another important health risk: heart disease. 

Dr. Elissa Thompson, cardiologist and
medical director of the Cardiac Rehabilitation program at Cape Cod Hospital, said that heart disease is the number one killer of Americans.

“It is a huge, huge national health issue and has been so for a long time, but the unfortunate problem is that not many people understand that heart disease is such a health threat to them,” said Thompson. 

She said that many facts about heart disease, including that it threatens the health of women more than men, are unknown to the general public. 

Thompson said that Cape Cod Healthcare is working to correct that with efforts to educate the public on what to know about heart disease and how to improve heart health. 

Multiple risk factors exist for developing heart disease, said Thompson, including advancing age, diabetes, high blood pressure or taking medications to control high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle put people at higher risk of heart disease as well.

These risk factors affect both sexes equally, but Thompson said that women are at higher risk for heart disease for other reasons. 

“Women more often are not seeking medical care after their child-bearing years are over, so they’re not getting the kind of attention that they might need to discover that they have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or have developed diabetes,” stated Dr. Thompson.

Symptoms can also vary between men and women, with women possibly experiencing less pronounced symptoms of heart disease, such as vague body pains in the jaw or arm instead of the more well-known chest pain. 

Thompson said that eliminating animal fats, saturated fats, and processed foods from diets as well as consistent exercise can diminish heart disease risks or even reverse damage that has been done to a cardiovascular system. 

She also stressed the importance of regular check-ups with doctors to determine blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. 

Cape Cod Healthcare has also created an online tool to help residents better understand their heart health.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Thompson said that Cape Cod Healthcare locations are safe and do not pose any increased risk for transmission of the virus, and that any residents experiencing heart disease symptoms should continue to visit their doctor.

Thompson said that residents should call EMS to transport them to the hospital during a heart attack instead of driving themselves to ensure their safety and the safety of others on the road. 

She also said that chewing four baby aspirin will help residents who may be experiencing a heart attack.

“If you’re having any symptoms that are not usual for you and are concerning enough for you to think you might be having a heart attack or making you curious about your risk for having a heart attack, it’s best to contact your physician or in an emergency always dial 9-1-1,” said Thompson. 

The full Sunday Journal interview with Dr. Elissa Thompson can be found here.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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