Silent Killer: Heart Disease

Silent Killer: Heart Disease

By Scottie Gainey, MHA, RT(R), Texoma Medical Center, Texoma LIVING WELL Magazine

Most people don’t see it coming. Learn possible signs because the faster you get medical attention, the better your chances of survival and recovery are.

Most common cause of heart attacks.

Of three coronary arteries, if even one is blocked, it can prove fatal without immediate medical intervention. Increasingly, heart disease is due to a build-up of plaque (fat deposits) in arteries that, over time, can damage artery walls (atherosclerosis).

Possible symptoms.

• Chest discomfort – uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain

• Upper body discomfort – in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach

• Shortness of breath

• Cold sweat

• Nausea

• Lightheadedness

• Fatigue (especially in women)

If you or someone you’re with has any of these symptoms, dial 911 immediately.

Warning signs for women are not as predictable.

Many women never have chest pains before a heart attack. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), women often experience physical symptoms as long as a month or more before a heart attack. Most commonly reported are: unusual fatigue, sleep disturbance, shortness of breath, indigestion or anxiety.

The NIH study found the following major symptoms women experience during a heart attack: shortness of breath, weakness, unusual fatigue, cold sweat or dizziness.

There’s a lot you can do to help prevent heart disease.

There are genetic pre-dispositions you can’t change. Some factors can be assisted through medications. But there are things you can do to lower your risk for heart disease. Eat right and exercise. Once you start, it’s not difficult to adopt a healthy lifestyle. (Before you embark on any course of action, talk with your cardiologist.)

Avoid being overweight. Develop a nutritious, heart-healthy meal and snack plan. Balance and moderation are key. Fruits, dark green vegetables, whole grains, lean protein. Ask your cardiologist or a nutritionist. Reducing your weight by as little as 10% can go a long way toward preventing heart disease.

No trans fats. (Read labels carefully.)

Incorporate physical activity into your life. Take a walk. Use the stairs. Dance (the living room is fine). Talk with your cardiologist about a workout plan, start slowly and gradually move to 60 minutes every day.

Don’t smoke. Period.

Track your blood sugar. Check it often. And if you have diabetes, keep to your meal, snack, monitoring and medication schedule.

Check your blood pressure regularly and decrease stress: Reading, music, conversation… Release anger and angst. Laughter can do wonders for your wellbeing.

Vitamins and antioxidants. If you’re not getting enough from food you eat, try supplements. Consult your cardiologist and nutritionist.

Lowering your risk for heart disease is a decision.

You’re never too old (nor too young) to take control. The biggest surprise is that when your body works well, you just may find you feel happier. Lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, less weight, better blood flow, more oxygen in your lungs…These things can improve your mood, self-esteem, physical function and energy level.

Author Scottie Grainey, MHA, RT(R)is administrative director, Cardiovascular Services at Texoma Medical Center.

Visit and our online Health Library. If you don’t have a cardiologist, referrals are free from Direct DoctorsSM Plus at 903.416.DOCS (3627). 

Information is provided for educational purposes only, and is not intended to constitute medical advice or to be relied upon for the treatment of any particular condition. If you have concerns or questions about specific symptoms that may affect your health, please contact your healthcare provider. Physicians are on the medical staff of Texoma Medical Center, but, with limited exceptions, are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of Texoma Medical Center. The hospital shall not be liable for actions or treatments provided by physicians.

Dedicated Heart Center.

The Texoma Heart Center – comprehensive cardiovascular services, from prevention to diagnoses and treatment to rehabilitation and support. Procedures include interventional cardiology, open-heart surgery, beating-heart bypass and cardiac catheterizations. Team members have performed thousands of surgical procedures since the Heart Center opened in 1982. And now, local cardiovascular surgeons and cardiologists are on staff at TMC. In the new Texoma Medical Center, teams are supported by advanced equipment and technologies, enabling them to take care of you in the best possible ways.

Health Tip

The best protection against heart disease is prevention through a healthy lifestyle.