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Heart Month Wrap Up: Hot Topics


Jessup_AHA official photo
Mariell Jessup, MD

 To celebrate February as American Heart Month, the NewsBlog is highlighting some of the latest heart-centric news and stories from allareas of Penn Medicine.

As we wrap-up our Heart Month blog post series, I asked PennMedicine’s Mariell Jessup, MD, medical director of the Heart & VascularCenter and the president-elect of the American Heart Association, to weigh inon some of the hottest topics in research and clinical care in thecardiovascular community.

Perils of being sedentary

As a physician, I can’t stress this enough…regular physicalactivity is critical to the achievement of mental, physical, and cardiovascularhealth, and contributes substantially to that elusive state of well-being thatmost people strive for.  A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of heartdisease, diabetes, and stroke.

The American Heart Association recommends 30-60 minutes ofaerobic exercise three to four times per week to promote cardiovascularfitness, but any little bit of exercise helps!  Even taking three10-minute walks throughout your day counts towards your fitness goals. Make an effort to build exercise into each day, walking the stairs instead oftaking an elevator, or choosing a space at the far end of the parking lot toget in more walking as you enter a store.

What is hands-only CPR?

Hands-only CPR is something everyone should and can learn!If more people knew this was an effective way to give CPR and felt morecomfortable performing CPR – which can seem complicated and intimidating tomany members of the lay public – it could save many more lives from suddencardiac death - one of the nation’s leading killers.

The AHA has a great online training tool to help peoplelearn more about hands-only CPR . There is even an app that may be loaded ontoyour smart phone with the instructional video and a method to ensure that chestcompressions are done at the right pace. Schools that teach CPR have alreadyshown that the effort saves lives!


The cola conundrum

There have been several studies published over the last fewyears looking at both full calorie and diet soda consumption as it relates toheart health. While the data is mixed, we know that full-sugar soda is high incalories and can contribute to weight gain. Obese kids and adults are moreprone to develop diabetes and subsequent stroke and/or heart attack. For dietsoda, some evidence has suggested that regular consumption of diet soda primespeople to crave and consume more sugar in other foods and drinks. The bestadvice is moderation regardless of your soda choice. Having a soda now and thenis fine; just don’t make it a staple of your diet.


Erectile dysfunction and heart disease

We’ve known for years that erectile dysfunction can be anearly warning sign of cardiovascular problems in men. Heart disease, stroke,peripheral vascular disease and erectile dysfunction can all be caused by inflammationand atherosclerosis of blood vessels. A disorder of one organ system generallymeans that the other vascular beds are involved as well.  So if a malepatient presents with ED, it may also be an indicator of other cardiovascularabnormalities. The first step for a man with ED is to get a good physicalcheck-up!

Read more about this connection in an earlier Heart Month blog post.


Fish oil: does it really help?

There has been mixed evidence of the benefits of taking fishoil dietary supplements for heart health. Currently, the AHA advises peoplewith high triglyceride levels to eat more fatty/oily  fish (as opposed totaking a supplement) — the omega-3s in oily fish help boost good cholesteroland lower triglycerides. Everyone, including healthy people and heart patients,should eat at least two servings of fish per week to benefit from the omega-3fats.


Women’s heart health advances

An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected byheart disease, but we know that only one in five women believe heart disease isa major threat to them. Heart disease isn’t just an issue for men and theelderly. In fact, since 1984, more women than men have died each year fromheart disease, so it is extremely important for women to know their riskfactors for heart disease and also be informed about often-overlooked commonsymptoms.

In addition to all of the common risk factors that everyoneshould know -- smoking, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, lack of exercise, andfamily history -- women have unique risk factors for heart disease, including their use of birth control pills, hormone therapy, and evenpregnancy-related problems. In terms of symptoms, women often have differentsymptoms of coronary artery disease than men. For example, symptoms of a heartattack in women may include: nausea or fatigue, shortness of breath, and painor discomfort in the back, arms, and chest.  The good news is that simplelifestyle changes, like exercise and weight loss, seem to be even moreeffective in women for the prevention of heart disease and stroke! Preventionis a powerful tool for women to embrace!

The AHA’s groundbreaking National Wear Red Day celebrationjust marked its 10th Anniversary and the Go Red for Women website has a lot ofgreat resources for women who are looking to learn more about their hearthealth. 


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