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Matters of the heart

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among Americans, yet many people don’t know they are at risk or already have the condition, according to the American Heart Association.

February is American Heart Month, a time to focus on cardiovascular disease. Greenwich Hospital offers a comprehensive range of services, from risk assessments and prevention programs to advanced procedures performed in conjunction with the Yale New Haven Health Heart and Vascular Center at the West Putnam Medical Center in Greenwich.

Effects of COVID-19 on the heart

A 2021 study published in The Lancet found strong evidence that heart attack and stroke risks increase sharply in the weeks following a COVID-19 diagnosis. A first heart attack was three to eight times more likely in the week after diagnosis. The risk of a first stroke caused by a blood clot increased by three to six times. Both risks decreased steadily in the following weeks, but stayed elevated for at least a month. According to Wilmore Finerman, MD, cardiologist, people with high blood pressure and underlying cardiovascular conditions, such as coronary artery disease and heart failure, are more likely to become seriously ill if infected with COVID-19.

On February 8, Dr. Finerman will share recent findings about COVID-19 and heart disease, and offer advice on the best ways to protect yourself. Akli Zetchi, MD, cerebrovascular neurosurgeon, will speak about brain emergencies on January 13. Paul Lleva, MD, neurologist, will discuss secondary stroke prevention on February 1.

Healthy eating for a healthy heart

Eating a heart-healthy diet is important for managing blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Aim to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes. Limit the use of salt (sodium), saturated and trans fats (which raise cholesterol), red meat, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages. To make it easier to identify healthy food, the American Heart Association (AHA) developed the Heart-Check mark. When found on food packaging, the symbol means the product meets AHA criteria for saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium for a single serving of the food product. But what is a saturated fat? What’s a trans fat? How much is too much salt?

On February 14, Denise Addorisio, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist, will offer information to help consumers understand food labels and navigate the grocery aisle. She will also offer practical tips for adopting a heart-healthy diet to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Natural ways to reduce blood pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure occurs when your blood pressure, the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels, is consistently too high. It’s known as a “silent killer” because often there are no obvious symptoms. When left untreated, high blood pressure can contribute to heart failure, stroke, vision loss, kidney disease and heart attack. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be prevented and managed with healthy lifestyle choices and medication, if necessary.

On February 17, Roberta Brown, RN, coordinator of the Integrative Medicine Program, will discuss the research showing that certain complementary therapies and stress-reduction strategies (such as meditation) can reduce blood pressure and be an adjunct to medical care.