GET YOUR HEART BACK
KEEPING YOUR HEART HEALTHY AFTER 50
TO WHAT MAKES IT REALLY BEAT
Q: What symptoms or changes in a patient’s health may signal heart disease or a heart problem? Dr. Ekpete: Symptoms we look for include chest discomfort or pain and shortness of breath, with or without exertion; heart palpitations or the sensation of the heart racing or skipping a beat; dizziness or feeling lightheaded; unexpected weight gain or swelling of the extremities, especially the legs and feet. These symptoms can occur with many different conditions. That’s why it’s important to have an idea of the patient’s history to know whether these symptoms may be related to something else or whether further evaluation or treatment is needed. Q: How can people over 50 improve their heart health? Dr. Ekpete: I recommend staying active by engaging in 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise each week. This is the type of exercise that increases your heart rate and breathing. It also helps manage stress, which can contribute to chronic inflammation that negatively impacts the heart muscle and arteries that carry blood throughout the body. I also advise my patients to maintain their body mass index, or BMI, between 18 and 25 percent, as being overweight is amajor risk factor in the development of heart and vascular disease. And I recommend quitting smoking and eating a nutritious diet, rich in fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates. Q: What concerns you as a cardiologist about COVID-19? Dr. Ekpete: We’re seeing evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can also affect the heart muscle itself. Reports from the medical community indicate that some patients who contract COVID-19 end up with symptoms of heart failure, where the heart cannot effectively pump blood, causing shortness of breath, fluid retention and arrhythmias. The virus can also affect the lining that surrounds the heart, leading to chest pain or discomfort. We also have seen that the systemic response of the body to the virus can lead to the formation of blood clots, which can cause heart attacks and strokes as they cut off the blood and oxygen supply to
Cardiovascular disease and heart conditions can emerge at any age. Yet, as we get older, the risk of needingmedical care to diagnose, treat or manage heart disease or a heart-related illness increases. Biyebelemo Ekpete, DO, a cardiologist with Memorial HermannMedical GroupCypressMulti-Specialty, in this interview, discusses why people, age 50 or older, should consider seeking the regular care of a cardiologist to ensure optimal cardiovascular health for years to come. Q: What is your No.1 piece of health advice for people 50 years old and older? Dr. Ekpete: I recommend that people 50 and older have a thorough preventive care evaluation by their primary care physician or a general cardiologist that includes taking a health history and performing a physical examination.This evaluation will help determine what cardiovascular risk factors or underlying conditions may already be present that increase a person’s likelihood of developing heart disease or a heart condition. I discuss with my patients their personal and family health history and lifestyle factors that could signal or create future cardiovascular risks. I look for a genetic predisposition to heart disease, as evidenced by a family member who had premature heart disease. I also look for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight, smoking or diabetes. If these risk factors are present, I talk to my patients about controlling these risk factors through lifestyle changes. Q: Why should individuals see a cardiologist regularly when they reach 50? Dr. Ekpete: Inmany individuals, disease processes usually start to show up as they age. We begin to see high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and coronary artery disease around the age of 50, even if these conditions weren’t present before. Younger patients may experience benign palpitations, or irregular heartbeats, but after age 50, these may turn into malignant heart rhythms that signal serious arrhythmias that need managing. It’s important to develop a relationship with a cardiologist at this time so we know when a patient’s cardiovascular health changes. We can helpmanage their risk factors, act upon new conditions that arise andminimize repeat testing ormedicalmanagement that has proven ineffective for these patients in the past.
the heart and brain. These conditions can occur in p r e v i o u s l y h e a l t h y individuals or in those with underlying conditions and can be deadly. Q: How has the pandemic indirectly affected heart health? Dr. Ekpete: When the pandemic first hit, people were reluctant to seek care from a doctor if they were
Biyebelemo Ekpete, DO Cardiologist
experiencing unusual symptoms. This trend accounted for an increase in deaths at home fromheart attacks and strokes. The pandemic also prevented the proper management of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart failure. People were fearful of going to the doctor, and we lost ground managing these conditions with proper monitoring and medication adjustments. We’re thankfully seeing these trends slowly improve, and in some cases, go the other way, as people aremore in tune with everyday aches and pains and seeking caremore often. We’re also seeing the effects of inactivity during the months of lockdown with weight gain and uncontrolled stress. Q: What’s your advice for people over 50 who are concerned about COVID-19? Dr. Ekpete: I recommend adhering to the guidelines set out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health officials. Wear a mask or face covering, practice social distancing, avoid crowds and isolate at home with minor symptoms of any illness. I’d add, though, that it’s important to seek medical attention if you experience worsening symptoms or have any signs of a serious condition, such as a heart attack or stroke. Hospitals have taken precautions to protect patients from exposure to COVID-19. Seeking medical attention for life-threatening conditions and for managing chronic diseases could save your life.
Advancing health. Personalizing care. Staying on top of your heart health has never been more important. If you are at high risk for heart disease or are experiencing new or worsening symptoms, it’s time to see your doctor. At Memorial Hermann, our network of affiliated cardiologists offer proactive assessments and personalized plans to help keep risk factors in check. And with enhanced safety measures in place at all of our facilities, you can get the care you need with peace of mind. HEART ISSUES SHOULDN’T WAIT. SEE YOUR DOCTOR.
To schedule an appointment with a physician at Memorial Hermann Medical Group Cypress Multi-Specialty, visit memorialhermann.org/mhmg-cypress-multi-specialty.
Advancing health. Personalizing care.
COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM
CY-FAIR EDITION • FEBRUARY 2021
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