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Healthbeat 4: Staying Heart Healthy

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Sioux City, Iowa -- February is American Heart Month, when we see and hear constant reminders about the importance of a heart healthy life.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women, in the United States and worldwide, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

In this Healthbeat 4, we focus on heart health, with the help of a cardiologist from UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's, who says taking care of ourselves plays a major role in our heart health.

"So it's closed today, but this is our cardiac and rehab area," said Dr. Shannon Hoos-Thompson, Cardiologist.

Dr. Shannon Hoos-Thompson, a cardiologist at UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's Cardiology Services and Cardiovascular Associates takes us to where the recovery work happens after a cardiac event like a heart attack.

"But basically when you talk about cardiac and pulmonary rehab, they're a large part of getting back on their feet after they've had a heart and cardiac surgery and things like that," said Dr. Hoos-Thompson.

Putting patients through specialized exercises and tests after a cardiac event can reduce the chances of it happening again by about 40%, according to the doctor, who on this day, is checking in with her colleagues, pulmonary and cardiac rehab therapists.

"And when they come in, how long are they here for? About an hour. And typically, how long do most patients complete? For us, it can be up to 13, 14," said Dr. Hoos-Thompson and UnityPoint Health pulmonary and cardiac rehab therapists.

The work to get back to good heart health is extensive because taking care of our hearts shouldn't be taken lightly.

"Heart disease is the number one killer for adults in our country and that includes women," said Dr. Hoos-Thompson.

And genetics can play a role so it's important to be aware of family history, especially if it includes risk factors for heart disease. But she says it's rarely the only contributor to heart problems. The daily choices we make are more of a factor, when it comes to the overall health of our hearts.

"We're talking about heart failure, we're talking about stroke, we're talking about heart attacks. Seventy-percent of that is controlled by taking care of ourselves, which means we don't smoke. We get some exercise on a regular basis, and we try to do a good job with our diet," said Dr. Hoos-Thompson.

Along with the awareness of how we treat our bodies, Dr. Hoos-Thompson says if you think something's not quite right, and those symptoms persist, seek medical help.

"Take care of yourself. That's not being selfish. It's not just important for yourself, but the people you do care about of the people who do depend on you," said Dr. Hoos-Thompson.

And the doctor says you don't have to be an athlete to get up, move around, go for a walk or get on a bike. Do it for you and your heart health.

Dr. Hoos-Thompson also says in the last 20 years, there have been fewer cardiovascular events because people are more aware of the steps they need to take to prevent heart disease.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has daily themes for this American Heart Month. #Selfcare Sunday is a time to create a self-care checklist. #Mindful Monday is a reminder to know your blood pressure numbers. #Tasty Tuesday is heart-healthy recipe day. #Wellness Wednesday is the time for a heart wellness routine. #Treat Yourself Thursday is for treating your heart to relaxation and fun. #Follow Friday is when you share who inspires you to show your heart some love. #Selfie Saturday is for posting your favorite way to take care of your heart.

It's important to note, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, people with poor cardiovascular health are also at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Stella Daskalakis

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