Struggling in Silence: Stress, Depression, Anxiety & Panic
February 2022 Issue
Serious as a Heart Attack: A Few Things to Know about Heart Disease & Stroke
Heart disease and stroke is something no one ever wants to experience. Unfortunately though, heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women. The good news is there are lifestyle choices that can help reduce your risks, even if it runs in your family. The best way to combat the debilitating effects of a possible heart attack or stroke is to partner with your physician and take precautions based on your current state of health. Make an appointment today to take heart and beat the odds you may be facing. In the meantime, read on to learn more about heart disease and stroke from our local medical experts.
By Paul Mazzeo, MD
Beaufort Memorial Hospital & Coastal Neurology
What are the early signs of stroke and what should you do if you notice them?
If you think someone might be having a stroke, “FAST” is the mnemonic aid that is easiest for people to remember.
Look for these symptoms:
• Facial drooping on one side when smiling
• Arm drifts downward when held in front of you
• Speech is slurred or nonsensical
• Time to call 911 when these signs are present.
Other symptoms of stroke may include a sudden loss of vision in one eye, sudden onset of severe headache (like someone flipping on a light switch) and staggering gait due to sudden imbalance or paralysis of a leg.
A stroke usually occurs when there is a blockage of blood and oxygen to the brain, which can kill or damage brain cells, so receiving treatment quickly can mean the difference between life and death, or between disability and recovery.
The most critical thing you can do if you think you or a loved one is having a stroke is to make that 911 call immediately. Neurologists say “time is brain” for good reason. Every moment without treatment risks permanent injury to the brain.
Dr. Paul Mazzeo is a board-certified neurologist with Beaufort Memorial Hospital. Also certified in headache medicine, behavioral neurology and neuropsychiatry, Dr. Mazzeo practices with Coastal Neurology in Port Royal and Okatie.
By Stuart Smalheiser, MD
Beaufort Memorial Heart Specialists
Congestive heart failure runs in my family. How can I be proactive for my best health?
While you can’t change your family history of heart disease, there is still a lot you can do lower your risk of developing cardiovascular problems. Invest in a few simple lifestyle changes to support your heart health:
• Eat for a healthy heart. Focusing on fresh, whole foods will lower your chances of developing three major heart disease risk factors: 1. Being overweight; 2. Having higher cholesterol; and 3. Having high blood pressure. The best daily diet for a healthy heart includes a balance of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean sources of protein like beans, fish and poultry, whole grains, and healthy, unsaturated fats. Minimize sodium, sugar and saturated and trans fats. I recommend the Mediterranean diet to my patients.
• Move more. Exercise may be the “magic pill” that keeps your heart healthy; it helps keep cholesterol and blood pressure in healthy ranges, and it lowers your risk for heart disease and stroke. Look for an activity you enjoy because the best exercise is one you will do for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
• Be smoke free. Smoking is another significant risk factor for hastening heart problems. When combined with other risk factors, like family history, smoking further raises your chances of developing heart failure. Try to avoid second-hand smoke, as well.
• Limit your alcohol intake. Continued, excessive intake of alcohol (above recommended limits) can increase your chances of heart failure. If you drink, do it in moderation. Certainly if there are medications and/or medical issues, check with your physician if it is wise to continue drinking at all.
Get vaccinated. Covid, flu and pneumonia can place extra stress on your heart, so it is important to get regular vaccinations against them.
Board-certified in general, nuclear and interventional cardiology, Dr. Stuart Smalheiser is a cardiologist with Beaufort Memorial Heart Specialists.
By Ravina Balchandani, MD, FAC
Hilton Head Regional Healthcare
What are the different symptoms of heart attack between men and women?
The very first thing I want to affirm is YES, men and women have different symptoms of having a heart attack. Men tend to have the more commonly-known “there is an elephant sitting on my chest” crushing chest pain experience when having a heart attack, while women are more likely to have uncomfortable, non-specific chest pain, jaw pain, abdominal discomfort, cold sweats, nausea, and/or lightheadedness. Given these symptoms are not as commonly known for heart disease, it can usually delay women in getting to the hospital.
My friend’s father died of a heart attack referred to as a “widow maker”. What is the “widow maker” and how can I get tested to see if I’m at risk for it?
Our heart muscle is supplied by three major arteries. The main trunk/proximal, left anterior, descending artery is loosely termed as the “widow maker,” as it can have major impact on the heart if occluded. It can cause most sudden heart attacks and can result in death or severe incapacitation. This makes it even more important to know what your risk factors are and to make sure you are being treated accordingly to prevent these impacts. Preventative care with your cardiologist is fundamental, as there are various tests to help predict heart disease and get a hold of it as early as possible.
Dr. Ravina Balchandani graduated from Gandhi Medical School and completed her medical residency, cardiology residency and interventional cardiology residency at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City. Dr. Balchandani finds great enjoyment in the challenges of interventional practice, however, her primarily philosophy is that prevention is more important than the cure. She is a huge advocate for women and heart disease. Dr. Balchandani has two offices, one on Hilton Head Island and another one in Bluffton. To contact her office, call 843-816-3733.
By Tracy Blusewicz, MD
Advanced Women’s Care of the Lowcountry
Do some forms of birth control increase my risk of stroke and/or heart disease?
There are many options for birth control and the method a woman decides to use depends on many factors. A healthy woman should choose the type of contraception that will be most effective for her. Combination birth control pills (ones that contain both estrogen and progesterone) are thought to carry a slightly increased risk of stroke. Out of 100,000 healthy women, there is a risk that 4.4 of them will have a stroke. Studies on higher dose, estrogen-containing birth control pills is thought to raise the number to 8 women out of 100,000. Modern combined lower dose, estrogen-containing birth control pills are thought to have even less risk, and patches and the rings may have even lower risk. Any woman with an already increased risk of stroke, like smokers over the age of 35, women with a history of stroke, or women that have a genetic predisposition to stroke, should choose alternate forms of contraception. Progesterone-containing only birth control pills, Depo Provera injections, Progesterone-containing IUDs, Copper IUDs and Nexplanon progesterone implants do not increase the risk of stroke and are often used in more at risk patients.
There is a new option of a non-hormonal birth control gel called Phexxi that women can choose, or there are the traditional methods of condoms, sterilization, or abstinence. Pregnancy increases the risk of stroke more than the risk of using combination birth control pills, so women already at risk for stroke have to make sure they use contraception. Overall, a healthy, non-smoking woman, who is low risk, should feel comfortable using the birth control method of her choice. If a woman has any questions, she should feel free to ask her provider, as they will be up-to-date on the best options.
Tracy Blusewicz, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., compassionate, genuine bedside manner has earned her the trust of many women for their health care needs. She can be contacted at Advanced Women’s Care of the Lowcountry | The Medical Spa 843-341-9700; www.awclc.com