In June, we’ll be sharing insights from clinicians in our Dignity Health Medical Groups on topics critical to men’s health. Next, we hear from Sumesh Jain, MD, a cardiologist at Dignity Health Medical Group – Merced.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States. The good news is that heart disease can be prevented. Below, Dr. Jain insight to better understand heart disease and how to reduce your risk.
What is the most common heart condition that men delay caring for?
dr. Jain: Coronary artery disease is the most common heart disease in men. Men often do not ignore or recognize the symptoms, which prevents them from being evaluated and treated in a timely manner.
Coronary artery disease occurs when the arteries that supply the heart with blood become hardened and narrowed as a result of cholesterol buildup, called atherosclerosis† Significant narrowing of the arteries can eventually lead to a heart attack.
Many health conditions can affect heart health, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hypercalcemia (high blood calcium), immune disorders, and diabetes. High levels of stress, smoking and alcohol consumption, poor diet, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and family health history are also factors that can contribute to heart disease.
What are the symptoms of heart disease?
dr. Jain: Heart disease can present a variety of symptoms, including:
- Chest pain or upper body discomfort
- Pain in the neck or upper back – especially if the pain gets worse with exertion
- shortness of breath
- Gastric acid
- Tiredness and inability to perform usual activities
If you experience pain or discomfort in your chest for more than a few minutes, especially in the center or left side of the chest, call 1-1-2 immediately. This is a common sign of a heart attack and can feel like an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, pain, or feeling of fullness in the chest, upper back, or neck.
What are some lifestyle changes men can make to have the most impact on overall heart health?
dr. Jain: The key to supporting heart-healthy lifestyle changes is to start with one change at a time rather than making several at once. This will help achieve a heart healthy lifestyle and keep you on track in the long run.
Implementing a daily exercise routine consisting of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity is a great place to start. Aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming, cycling and dancing are good examples. In addition to aiding cardiovascular health, daily exercise helps control weight, improving overall health.
Quit smoking at any age helps reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. When you inhale cigarette smoke, you pollute the oxygen distributed throughout your body. The contaminated oxygen can permanently damage your heart and blood vessels, leading to heart disease. After just 8 hours of smoking cessation, your oxygen levels will return to normal and nicotine levels will drop by more than 90%. If you smoke, the sooner you can quit, the better, here’s why, according to the FDA.
Eating heart-healthy meals Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is an important part of heart disease prevention. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, bok choy, parsley, Swiss chard and spinach, are especially good to include in your diet because they form nitric oxide, which helps dilate blood vessels.
Regular doctor visits can help your healthcare team better understand and treat underlying health conditions that can contribute to heart disease. This is especially true for people with a family history of heart disease or other risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
If you are concerned about your cardiovascular health, talk to your primary care physician or cardiologist. To find a Dignity Health doctor near you, see our “Find a Doctor” tool.