heart health
Dr. Thierry Duchatellier

It’s important to be aware of the risk factors for heart disease and the steps that need to be taken to help one’s heart health.

Dr. Thierry Duchatellier, chief of cardiology at Mercy Hospital, spoke in a Schneps Media webinar, “Heart Health: What’s New in 2021,” on Mar. 3 about the newest information regarding heart health.

“Heart disease remains the number one killer in the United States and throughout the world,” said Duchatellier.

Duchatellier, who has been the chief of cardiology at Mercy Hospital for the past 18 years, listed the different types of modifiable and nonmodifiable risk factors for heart disease.

Risk factors that are modifiable, meaning they are risks that patients can control, include smoking, high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity, and high blood pressure.

Risk factors that are nonmodifiable, or can’t be controlled, include age and genetic predisposition to heart disease.

According to Duchatellier, high blood pressure is the number one risk factor in those who suffer from heart disease. It is suggested that patients have their blood pressure checked periodically; anything above 130 over 80 is considered abnormal.

When it comes to the symptoms of heart disease, patients should immediately contact their physician if they experience chest pain, discomfort radiating up to the neck and shoulder area, shortness of breath, sensations of sweat, nausea, lightheadedness, or palpitations. Though, it is important to note that women may not always experience the same type of symptoms as men.

“Different than men, the symptoms of women can be very subtle,” Duchatellier warns.

These symptoms can include vague fatigue, unexplained lethargy, shortness of breath or vague discomfort throughout the chest wall. The symptoms that women may experience are “not the typical ‘clutching your chest’ heaviness, like an elephant sitting on your chest. It can be very subtle. It can be just plain nausea or some mild shortness of breath,” said Duchatellier, who also noted that the phenomenon of pain shooting down the arm is typically a male pattern.

20-30 minutes of physical activity once a day and a plant-based diet that is high in fruits, legumes and vegetables are highly recommended in order to decrease the chances of developing heart disease. It is stressed that modified carbohydrates should be avoided, which are found in processed packaged foods and soft drinks. “Basically, a vegan diet is by far the diet that has currently shown—multiple times—to be beneficial in all facets in heart disease and diabetes,” stated Duchatellier. 

Though diet and exercise are the biggest components to fighting against heart disease, Duchatellier expressed that every patient is different. “This is an individualized issue, it all depends on the risk factors of the patient, their numbers, their history, and their symptoms.”

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