Cottage Health presents panel during American Heart Month
Cottage Health cardiologists Joseph Aragon, Taylor Holve and Bina Ahmed presented heart-healthy advice during a panel discussion Tuesday afternoon.
The event is part of American Heart Month in February and the Go Red for Women campaign by the American Heart Association, which raises awareness of heart-related fatalities in women.
The cardiologists provided tips they often give patients.
Family history is an identifier of being at a high risk of heart disease, but social factors also play a role, explained Dr. Ahmed. Those who smoke, drink frequently, are overweight or have a sedentary lifestyle are at an increased risk as well.
Dr. Aragon recommended 20 to 30 minutes of physical exercise each day.
He was concerned about an increase of tobacco usage in young populations, correlating with the popularization of e-cigarettes and vape pens.
The three doctors talked about red wine, an especially relevant factor in Santa Barbara County, and clarified that one to two glasses are heart-healthy portions. They recommended one six-ounce glass for women and up to two six-ounce glasses for men.
For those considering a diet changed, they were wary of extreme, short-lived diets. Instead, they all spoke positively about the Mediterranean Diet, which incorporates lots of produce and de-emphasizes red meat.
But Dr. Aragon advises “everything in moderation.”
Blood pressure and cholesterol levels also give an indication of heart health. Dr. Ahmed advises patients with high blood pressure to meditate and measure their blood pressure daily.
“A key tenet that we’ve always focused on is not ignoring symptoms when they come on,” Dr. Aragon said.
“Women tend to have different symptoms than men,” he said. “It’s not always an elephant sitting on my chest; they may have job pain or neck pain or just shortness of breath, and we always want to make sure that if you’re having symptoms, don’t ignore them.”
In connection with Go Red for Women, they talked about the differences between sexes.
“We’ve been hampered a lot by the fact that the vast majority of the data that we use to subscribe treatments are essentially done on trials that were sometimes 90% male,” Dr. Ahmed said.
“In general, women really represent 20 to 25% of the patients enrolled in large clinical trials, and that has not gotten better over the last three decades. So there has to be a movement and a commitment to really change who we are studying so that we can apply the appropriate treatments,” she said.
While heart attacks are usually caused by a blockage, which Dr. Ahmed described as having a “bread and butter” treatment, women are two to three times more likely to have heart attacks from alternative causes.
She has also found that stress-induced heart attacks are almost exclusively recorded in women.
The cardiologists were positive about the treatment options available in Santa Barbara.
“(Cottage Hospital is) probably one of the few centers in the United States that has done 500 aortic valve (implants), and we’re about to hit 100 mitral valves,” Dr. Aragon said.
The cardiologists said they have all worked with heart-disease patients who lived healthy, long lives with treatment.