10:35 PM

Affairs of the Heart

Sarji, Rawa

Written by Mary Bockstruck

February is National Heart Month, and Rawa Sarji, DO, FACC, cardiologist at Kalispell Regional Medical Center (KRMC), has some bad news, some good news, and some REALLY GOOD news.

First, the bad news: Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the United States. In fact, 1 in every 3 female deaths is related to cardiovascular disease.

Add to this the fact that women’s symptoms are often different from men’s. Women may experience chest pain (although some don’t), along with pain in their left arm and/or right arm, pain in their neck or jaw, shortness of breath, a feeling of pressure or heaviness in their chest or back, nausea, and sweating. What’s more, women often dismiss or ignore their symptoms because they are too busy taking care of everyone else.

According to Sarji, there is often a combination of factors that cause heart disease. Some factors are unavoidable — like genetics, age, and gender. And some are modifiable — such as weight, BMI (body mass index), cholesterol, high blood pressure, and lack of exercise. Additionally, those with diabetes and those who smoke are likely more prone to heart trouble.

Now for the good news: There are some things one can do to take charge of their risk! “Know your numbers!” says Sarji. “Routine visits to your family doctor, along with tests to determine your blood pressure, cholesterol counts, and body mass index will supply the info needed to help assess your risk.”

According to Sarji, there are several local resources in the Flathead Valley, both for heart patients and for those who wish to avoid becoming heart patients. KRMC offers lifesaving technologies, advanced surgical procedures and specialized courses of therapy, all delivered by a team of dedicated professionals. The Summit provides a great cardiac rehab program, along with numerous fitness plans for people who want to take the steps necessary to improve their health and reduce their risk of heart disease.

The National Institute of Health’s DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and/or a Mediterranean-style diet may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and have additional health benefits. These diets are mostly plant-based with high amounts of fresh vegetables, fish, fruits, nuts, dried beans, olive oil, and are low in sodium and low in saturated fats. KRMC’s staff of nutritionists and dieticians can help patients take charge of their diet and wellness.

And now for the REALLY GOOD news: Here two unique ways to lower your risk of heart disease.

ONE - A single glass of red wine daily seems to have heart-healthy benefits. More research is needed, but many doctors agree that it’s possible that antioxidants called flavonoids and/or a substance called resveratrol in red wine to appear to help the heart. This is not an invitation to start drinking, but for those who do like a glass of red wine, it can be part of a heart-healthy regimen.

TWO - Laughter really IS the best medicine. Laughter helps reduce the stress hormones produced in the hypothalamus section of the brain, lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Significant reductions can occur in minutes and last for days.

More information about the cardiology services available in our community can be found at www.krh.org.

This article was published in the February 2019 issue of Montana Woman.