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February 4, 2009 > Learn About Your Heart and How to Keep It Healthy

Learn About Your Heart and How to Keep It Healthy

Washington Hospital Seminar Will Focus on Heart Disease Prevention

Your heart is an amazing organ. Each day, on average, it beats 100,000 times and pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood to your lungs and all the tissues of your body.

"In a 70-year lifetime, the average human heart beats more than 2.5 billion times," reports the American Heart Association.

And yet, it only takes seconds for a cardiac arrest or other heart problem to occur.

"The heart is a mechanism that is both robust and delicate at the same time," says Thirupathi Reddy, M.D., a Fremont cardiologist who is on the medical staff at Washington Hospital. "There are times when it can go out of whack quickly."

You can learn more about your heart and what you can do to prevent heart disease and other cardiac problems at a series of three Health & Wellness seminars presented by Washington Hospital. The classes are free and open to the public.

The first in the series - "What You Can Do to Prevent Heart Failure and Heart Irregularities" - will be presented on Tuesday, Feb. 10 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium of the Washington West Building next to the hospital at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. The seminar will feature Dr. Reddy and local cardiologist Hahn M. Bui, M.D., also on Washington Hospital's medical staff.


You Have the Power to Help Prevent Heart Failure

At the first seminar, Dr. Bui will talk about how the heart works, what can cause it to fail and steps you can take to help prevent this from occurring.

"The heart's basic function is to squeeze and relax so the blood flowing through it can be pumped to the lungs and other organs and tissues," explains Dr. Bui. "Any impediment to this pumping action can potentially result in heart failure."

In general, there are four types of problems that may lead to heart failure, Dr. Bui continues. There could be a mechanical problem in which the heart's pumping action is too weak to squeeze all the blood out of the heart. Or, if the heart is unable to relax completely, it can become stiff. Another problem might be with the heart valves, which can lead to impaired blood flow and the back-up of blood in the lungs. Finally, there could be a problem with the rate of the heart's pumping action, with beats occurring too fast or too slow. This is called an arrhythmia.

Dr. Bui will discuss how you can help prevent many of these problems. Her chief recommendations include:
* Maintain a healthy blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends that your blood pressure should be less than 120/80.
* If you are on medication, make sure to take it appropriately and as instructed by your physician.
* Avoid eating excessive amounts of salt. You should have no more than 3 grams of salt per day. Read food labels and watch for "hidden salts" in items like canned or processed foods and condiments, such as catsup, pickles and olives.
* Help prevent coronary artery disease, which can lead to heart attack, by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, controlling your weight and maintaining a body mass index (BMI) of about 25.

"My personal goal is to help people recognize they have a certain amount of control over their health," comments Dr. Bui. "They have the power to live a healthy lifestyle and to get medical care when they think it is necessary. One of my main jobs is to serve as a cheerleader for my patients, providing them with the knowledge and motivation to take care of their heart."


Keeping the beat

The heart's pumping action is governed by a very well organized electrical system. During the seminar, Dr. Reddy will describe how the heart is structured and the way its electrical system works.

"An irregular heart beat, or arrhythmia, is very common. Ninety percent of the time, it is not dangerous," says Dr. Reddy. "At the seminar, we'll talk about what an arrhythmia is, the different types, and which ones you should be concerned about."

Although most arrhythmias are harmless, a few can be extremely dangerous and may lead to heart disease, stroke or sudden cardiac arrest. If you or someone you know is experiencing periods of irregular heartbeat, a "fluttering" in the chest or a feeling that the heart is skipping a beat, it is best to see a doctor to rule out problems, as well as for your own peace of mind.


Learn More About Heart Health

To learn more about keeping your heart healthy, reserve your space at the seminar on Feb. 10 by calling Washington Hospital's Health Connection at (800) 963-7070. To find a local physician, visit www.whhs.com and click on "Find a Physician."

Television programs that focus on cardiovascular health are periodically featured on the InHealth, a Washington Hospital Channel on Comcast Channel 78. For dates and times of these programs, see the InHealth program schedule in this newspaper or visit the InHealth webpage at www.whhs.com/community/InHealth/

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