Understanding Heart Health: Frequently Asked Questions

By Steven Kim, MD

February is a month that symbolizes the heart in terms of both romance and health. Whether you have someone to love this Valentine’s Day or spending the day solo, it’s important to remember to love yourself and protect your heart from heart disease.

Does heart disease only happen to middle-aged and older men?

Dr. Kim: No. Heart disease kills almost as many women as men. On average, it takes the life of almost 9,139 women each year or 25 women each day.

What are the warning signs of a heart attack?

Dr. Kim: Chest discomfort, pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach, shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort. Other symptoms may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness. In events where you feel like you may be having a heart attack, you should dial 9-1-1.

Is there a link between smoking and heart disease?

Dr. Kim: About 30 percent of all deaths from heart disease in the U.S. are directly related to smoking cigarettes. Among other things, the nicotine present in smoke causes decreased oxygen to the heart, increased blood pressure and an increase in blood clotting.

Is there a link between heart disease and secondhand smoke?

Dr. Kim: Absolutely, 34,000 deaths from heart and blood vessel diseases are caused by other people’s smoke each year.

What are the top five things to do to improve heart health?

Dr. Kim: If you’re a smoker, quit smoking. But exercise, losing weight, reducing blood sugar, controlling cholesterol and eating better all help to improve your heart.

What are other factors that contribute to heart disease?

Dr. Kim: Stress, alcohol and diet and nutrition all play a role in a person’s chance of developing heart problems.

How does laughing protect against heart disease?

Dr. Kim: According to a study from the University of Maryland, laughing strengthens artery walls, lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow to the heart and pumps more oxygen into the blood.

Does red wine really benefit your heart?

Dr. Kim: Yes! Drinking one glass of red wine per day does have health benefits. It increases good cholesterol and helps prevent heart disease. Drinking more than one glass, however, will reverse the effect.

Most patients know what they need to do to keep their hearts healthy. As a physician I know that change does not happen overnight. Take it one step at a time and take control over the things you can change – diet, physical activity and tobacco use. Keep your heart healthy today so you can keep enjoying your tomorrow.

Steven Kim, MD, joined eMedical Urgent Care in 2014. He is board-certified in internal medicine. Dr. Kim completed his residency at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City.


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