February is American Heart Month and it is an important time to learn and know your risk factors of heart disease and how to prevent it. While some risk factors – such as your age, gender, and family history of heart disease - are beyond your control, others can be modified in order to prevent a heart attack.
- High Cholesterol
- High Blood Pressure
- Physical Inactivity
Along with knowing risk factors, it’s also important to know the warning signs of a heart attack.
- Chest discomfort: uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Shortness of breath: may often occur with or before chest discomfort.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body; this may be felt in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Sweating, nausea or dizziness.
- Women, the elderly or diabetics may be more likely to present with symptoms other than chest pain – such as shortness of breath, back pain, or nausea and vomiting.
If you believe you are having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately. If you are having symptoms and cannot call, have someone drive you to the hospital right away. Never drive yourself.
Now is a great time to take charge of your health! Knowing your numbers is an important part of keeping your heart healthy. This information can help you and your physician know your risks and mark your progress toward a healthier lifestyle. Blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, and body mass index (BMI), are just some of the important numbers to keep track of. Ask your personal physician to assess your risk for developing heart disease and provide recommendations to help you improve your heart health.
Megan is a family nurse practitioner at CHI St. Alexius Health Heart & Lung Clinic. She completed her undergraduate degree and her masters of science in nursing degree from the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND, with a specialty as a family nurse practitioner. Megan is board certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. She is a member of the American College of Cardiology, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and the North Dakota Nurse Practitioner Association. She is certified in BLS and ACLS and has completed both PALS and the Trauma Nursing Core Course. Megan evaluates and treats patients with a variety of cardiac conditions, but has special interest in those with coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, arrhythmias, cardiomyopathies and congestive heart failure.