This Valentine’s Day, Pledge Your Love to Your Heart

— Lisa Brown • • February 2017

Every February, stores and florists are abuzz with shoppers looking for the right and best presents to show their loved ones how much they care. This adoration is usually measured in dozens and carats, but why not measure in pounds and milligrams this year and give yourself a gift of renewed heart health?

The statistics for heart disease are not good: It is the leading cause of death for both men and women, with coronary artery disease (CAD) being the most common type. Plaque, made up of deposits of cholesterol, builds up over time, blocking blood flow and causing CAD. Symptoms include angina, or chest pain or discomfort. CAD can eventually lead to heart failure as the heart becomes weakened over time.

heart health

Dr. Mohit Pasi, a cardiologist with North Carolina Heart & Vascular and UNC Health Care, each day sees and treats patients who are struggling with heart disease and the surrounding causes. While we all have non-modifiable risk factors such as genetics, some things can be done to reduce and even eliminate risk factors. He promotes a three-pronged intervention approach, all of which can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and death.

“The first thing patients should do is take medication that is prescribed to them. This has been proven over and over to be the best way to either prevent the first heart attack or not have a second,” Pasi said.

The second and third interventions are often talked about, especially with January and resolutions behind us, but they are harder for many of us to keep up with.

“Exercise and diet are also very important,” Pasi said. “Aerobic exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week is optimum. Not only will you get healthier, especially your heart, but you will feel better overall. Your mood will improve, as will your energy.”

Studies on diets vary. However, there are two that Pasi has seen work, and each has scientific backing.

“I recommend the DASH diet or the Mediterranean diet. Both of them have been proven to help with heart health,” he said.

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean diet are rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, poultry, nuts and beans.

In Wake Forest, a nutritional smoothie and juice bar, Wake Up Nutrition, serves fresh drinks weekdays to customers looking to lose weight and take control of their health. Co-owner Amber Heiney has been in the nutritional health business for five years and has witnessed customers’ transformations.

“We provide healthy options to busy people,” Heiney said. “By offering nutrition classes and a weight loss challenge, we also want to help educate people on nutrition so they can make good decisions.”

Angela Bolton of Henderson works in Wake Forest and goes to Wake Up Nutrition every day for lunch. Her doctor told her she had to reduce not just her weight but her cholesterol level. The level at 245 was well over what her doctor wanted for her.

“I tried medicines and over-the-counter remedies. I found out about this and tried it, and now seven months later, my level is 203,” Bolton said.

There is heart disease on both sides of her family, so Bolton knew the urgency was real.

“I’m off insulin, my weight is down, and with my cholesterol now where it is, my doctor told me to keep doing what I am doing,” she said.

Dr. Pasi, speaking from his car on his way to a gym, said, “It’s best to focus on what you can do. You can’t change your genes, but you can change your behavior.”