• World Heart Day: An Opportunity to Take Action Against Heart Disease-0

Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. There is a common misconception that it hits mostly older men, but the reality is that heart disease does not discriminate. Given the prevalence of heart disease, any effort to increase awareness, prevention, detection, and/or early treatment will lead to tremendous improvement in public health. For World Heart Day on September 29th, we talked to Dr. Haghighat regarding the heart and how to protect it.

Dr. Haghighat has been interested in cardiology since he was just a child. “I was drawn to the critically important role of cardiac healthcare for patients and the community. I could not dream of anything more impactful than saving a patient’s life and being there to guide his or her cardiac health and recovery,” he says. Now, working as a cardiologist, Dr. Haghighat really enjoys the relationships he builds with his patients. “The long-term relationships we build as cardiologists allow us to get to know the patients and their families, their eating habits, their exercise, their health goals and their progress. It’s an opportunity to help patients back to health and stronger hearts.”

Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease. “We must stomp out smoking, especially in our youth, but it is never too late to quit smoking,” Dr. Haghighat says. He adds, “Other modifiable risk factors are dyslipidemia- which means checking your cholesterol and making sure your bad cholesterol (LDL) level is under control, and hypertension- low salt diet and blood pressure medications save lives! Cardiovascular exercise will help you all throughout your life.” Dr. Haghighat also wants you to know that it is never too early to start modifying your risk factors for heart disease. “You don't have to wait until you have a heart attack to start working on diet, exercise, cholesterol and blood pressure reduction. I teach my children that dietary habits start from childhood, and it becomes harder to modify as you get older. Thus, I already work on trying to reduce their exposure to sweets and salt loadsFruits and vegetables make great snacks and exercise is a way of life in our household,” he shares.

Patients are often concerned about the link between cholesterol and heart disease. “Cholesterol is the building block of plaque in our arteries. It is one of the key components that results in "hardening of the arteries." This arterial narrowing results in decreased blood flow to the heart muscle and chest pain or a heart attack. There is good cholesterol (HDL) and there is bad cholesterol (LDL). Exercise can potentially increase your good cholesterol. Diet and statin therapy, as well as PCSK9 inhibitors, can reduce your bad cholesterol. There is a consensus that if you have risk factors for heart disease, then you should have your cholesterol checked periodically starting at age 20. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that all adults get tested every 4 to 6 years starting at this age. Other guidelines suggest that women without risk factors may wait until age 45 to start getting their cholesterol tested, and men every 5 years beginning at age 35.”

Does a family history of heart disease increase your risk? It is a known fact that genetics play a significant role in heart disease. This means that if your mother, father, or sibling had heart disease diagnosed relatively early in their life (male relative below the age of 55 or female relative below 65), then you are at an increased risk of developing heart disease.” Dr. Haghighat discusses this with his patients and members of the community, noting “you cannot control your genetics, but you can control what you do with those genes. Knowledge that it runs in your family should inspire action- checkups, diagnostic tests and labs, healthful eating, exercising, as well as treatment of modifiable risk factors. It is an opportunity to make sure you don't end up with premature manifestation of heart disease too.”

To learn more about Bay Medical Cardiology, please visit https://www.baymedical.org/cardiology.