Paying attention to your heart can have lasting, important, health benefits

Published Oct 28, 2018 at 9:00am

You or someone you love may have a heart condition.

Examples include having had stents, having had heart surgery, being in heart failure, or having a pacemaker.

These are serious illnesses and need attention for the rest of the patient’s life. There should be follow-up visits to a cardiologist. One should not assume that a cardiologist isn’t needed, just because there are no symptoms.

Currently many people having chest pain go to the emergency room and are diagnosed with blockage to coronary arteries. Stents are placed, within the vessels of the heart, that allow blood to flow again. This treatment is often very successful, but it is important to take precautions as listed below.

After stenting, you probably were started on a blood thinner. There are several types. The cardiologist may recommend stronger blood thinners after stenting, then you took before.

It is likely that you will be taking some kind of blood thinner permanently. You should know which pill is a blood thinner and make sure that the prescription is refilled regularly and you take the pill every day. 

You are likely to be on high blood pressure medication. Blood pressure should be checked several times a year. If you get it checked, write down the result.

Keep that information for the next visit to the primary care provider and consider if your blood pressure is low enough.

A lot of us need increasing medication or additional medication to keep our blood pressure in the normal range as we age.

Many people have both heart disease and diabetes. Diabetes is a complicated condition.

Your diet should have limited sweets. If you are overweight, you should eat fewer calories until your weight is in the normal range. Blood sugar should be tested regularly and your Hemoglobin A1C should be monitored several times a year.

Diabetes makes almost all forms of heart disease more dangerous. If you are a diabetic, but your blood sugars are low, and you are taking your diabetes medication regularly, you will be helping to keep your heart healthy.

Another area of concern is cholesterol. It is always good to keep the levels low and many people take medication for that. If you have had a heart problem, the doctor may have increased your dose of anti-cholesterol medication. 

Most people who take multiple medications fill a “pill holder” once a week, with all the pills for each day of the week. If you are running low on anything, be sure the pharmacy is alerted or your doctor calls in a refill. Keep a list near your medications of all the pills that you take and take that list whenever you travel, go to the doctor, or to the emergency room. And always keep medications stored up high and out of reach of children.

You may need to make sure that the primary doctor is updated if your heart specialist has changed your medications or if you have been in the hospital. All of this medication and medical care has kept many people alive and healthy and active into their later years.

If you cannot keep track of medications and appointments yourself, ask one of your children to help. Ask this person or a close friend to go to doctor’s appointments with you. Also get as much exercise as you can and lose weight if you are overweight.