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Coffee with Cardiologists: In Case You Missed It!

Although February is Heart Health Month, Harbin Clinic cares about cardiovascular health all year round. Last month, we hosted our first Coffee with Cardiologists virtual event with six Harbin Clinic cardiologists representing Rome, Cartersville, and Calhoun. During the event, our cardiovascular experts discussed the prioritization of heart health, easy and effective lifestyle changes to optimize heart function, and how strong vascular health plays a significant role in the fight against COVID-19.

For those who missed the event, we’ve provided the topics discussed at the panel below so you don’t miss out on any helpful heart health tips.

Q: How does drinking caffeine of energy rinks affect your heart?

A: Although large amounts of caffeine can have negative effects on your cardiovascular health, drinking black coffee in moderation can reduce your risk of heart failure. When it comes to consuming energy drinks, you’re increasing your risk of having an arrhythmia. To be on the safe side, stay away from energy drinks and stick to 1-3 cups of coffee a day.

Answer by: Dr. Maxwell Prempeh

Q: What advice can you give to seniors over the age of 65 for keeping your heart healthy?

A: For those over the age of 65, follow these 5 tips to keep your heart healthy:

Exercise. 30 minutes of moderate level exercise 5 days a week is recommended.

Eat a healthy diet. Following a Mediterranean diet is great for heart health. This includes a lot of fish, chicken, fruits, nuts, vegetables, olive oil, and beans, and staying away from an abundance of red meat, fried foods, processed foods, and added sugars.

Don’t smoke. Smoking is the biggest risk factor for heart disease and heart attacks. 

Limit your alcohol. Alcohol in moderation can be beneficial for your heart, but large amounts can lead to heart failure and rhythm problems. To be safe, stick to 1-2 drinks a day.

Get checked out. See your doctors when needed and get your cholesterol levels and blood pressure checked.

Answer by: Dr. Christopher Merritt

Q: Is the Keto diet good for your heart? What’s the best diet for heart health?

A: The Keto diet is a low carbohydrate and high protein and fat diet. While this can help you lose weight, the large consumption of fats can affect your heart health negatively. The best diet for heart health is the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet will decrease your mortality and lower your risk factors for coronary heart disease. Intermittent fasting also has cardiovascular benefits and is recommended. 

Answer by: Dr. Charlie Baggett

Q: Are people with heart issues more likely to contract COVID-19? Besides the vaccine, what can those people do to create extra protection for themselves?

A: Yes. Anyone with underlying health issues that weaken the immune system is more likely to contract the virus. If you do get sick, you’re more likely to have a severe course with the virus. The biggest thing you can do to protect yourself, besides getting the COVID-19 vaccine, is to follow all COVID-19 precautions such as frequent hand washing, social distancing, and wearing face masks. Also, make sure that you’re taking care of your body and seeing your doctor as needed.

Answer by: Dr. Charles Jackson

Q: How long should bypass surgery last before the arteries become clogged?

A: Since bypass surgery is not a cure, it’s important to continue to take care of your body and your health after your surgery. If you follow your doctor’s advice by taking your medications, eating healthy, and exercising, the surgery could last for 20 years. If you stop taking your medications and taking care of your body, your surgery could only last for up to 5 years.

Answer by: Dr. Hunter Myers

Q: Does taking blood pressure medication increase your resting heart rate over a long period of time? What are the best ways to lower blood pressure naturally?

A: It depends on your usual heart rate and what medications you are on. Some blood pressure medications can naturally lower your heart rate over time, and some can raise it. If you’re having any problems with a too low or too high heart rate, the best thing is to talk to your doctor so they can help adjust your medication accordingly.

To lower your blood pressure naturally, here are the most important things you can do:

Exercise for 30 minutes 5 days a week.

Eat a healthy diet.

Lower your salt intake.

If you have sleep apnea, wear your mask as instructed by your doctor.

Answer by: Dr. Digant Bhatt

Q: It has been said that heart disease kills more women than all cancers combined. Why do you think this is true?

A: As you age, the risk of cardiovascular diseases becomes more prevalent, especially over the age of 45. On top of this, the signs of heart disease in women aren’t as noticeable. While some of the symptoms are the same, women often have symptoms that go unnoticed. Some of these symptoms include fatigue, jaw pain, and shortness of breath. Because of this, heart disease in women often goes unnoticed by the patient and sometimes physicians. The best thing we can do is increase awareness of the symptoms that fly under the radar.

Answer by: Dr. Maxwell Prempeh

Q: How can I tell if I’m having chest pain as a result of a cardiac issue or GI/reflux issues?

A: Although there is not a clear, easy answer, there are some general guidelines that can help you differentiate which one of these problems is causing your chest pain. Characteristics of GI/reflux pain are discomfort after meals, a burning sensation in the esophagus and throat, difficulty swallowing, and gas. Also, if the pain resolves after taking antacids, then it’s most likely reflux. The main characteristic of cardiac issues is chest discomfort, which can be tightness, heaviness, and pressure. If the discomfort is in the center of the chest, left arm, left shoulder, or left jaw, then it’s most likely a cardiovascular issue. Cardiovascular issues are also usually accompanied by shortness of breath, cold sweats, and nausea.

Answer by: Dr. Charles Jackson

Q: How can you tell the difference between a heart attack and a stroke? Are the symptoms different in men and women?

A: The most common symptoms of a stroke are a loss of vision, not being able to move a part of the body, difficulty speaking, loss of mobility on one side of the mouth, and dizziness. As for a heart attack, the common symptoms include chest pressure going through the arm, a feeling of tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath. The symptoms are different in men and women because most women experiencing a stroke or a heart attack have symptoms that can go unnoticed. If you experience any of these ongoing symptoms, the best thing to do is go to the ER or your doctor to be safe.

Answer by: Dr. Digant Bhatt

Q: If I’m trying to quit smoking, is vaping or e-cigarettes a good way to break the habit? Are the risks any worse?

A: While there haven’t been many studies done on vaping and e-cigarettes, consensus would say that it’s less harmful than smoking, but not safe. There is a high risk of lung injury when it comes to vaping and e-cigarettes. Although it is a less harmful alternative, there are better alternatives available to help you quit smoking. The best thing to do is talk to your doctor about quitting and see what options are best for you.

Answer by: Dr. Charlie Baggett

Q: What are the possible side effects to the heart from COVID-19? Is this complicated if you have also experience pulmonary embolisms due to COVID?

A: We see a lot of heart complications from COVID-19, shortness of breath and chest pain being the two most common. Some more serious complications we see in high-risk patients are clotting problems, thrombotic problems, heart attacks, strokes, and pulmonary emboli. Arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation, heart rhythm problems, and inflammation of the heart muscle are also common with COVID-19 during the illness and in the recovery period.

Answer by: Dr. Christopher Merritt

Q: What is the best way to sustain a healthy heart overall?

A: A very integral part of keeping your heart healthy is a good diet. Mediterranean diets are great for the heart, as well as a vegetarian or vegan diet. Many studies have shown that a plant-based diet is very beneficial for heart health. An alternative to going fully plant-based is to eat vegetarian for 2 out of 3 meals in the day to improve your health without changing your diet completely. Regularly exercising and attending counseling are also other ways to keep your heart healthy.

Answer by: Dr. Hunter Myers

Q: What are the signs and symptoms that someone may experience in the early stages of heart disease? What should they do and what should they be on the lookout for?

A: A typical sign to look for is chest discomfort. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a pain, but any tightness, pressure, tingling, or burning on the left side of the neck or jaw. Some other symptoms that are the most common are shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling of the legs. If you are experiencing these ongoing symptoms, you should talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

Answer by: Dr. Charles Jackson

Q; Does sleep apnea lead to high blood pressure?

A: Sleep apnea has a lot of effects on the heart. It puts a lot of strain on the heart throughout the night because of the lack of oxygen and can lead to heart failure if it goes undiagnosed. Other results could be strain throughout your body, high blood pressure, pulmonary hypertension, arrhythmias, and AFib. The best thing to do when experiencing sleep apnea is to get it treated as soon as possible. Using either a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Therapy (CPAP) or a Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) is the best way to mitigate the effect of sleep apnea so your heart isn’t straining at night.

Answer by: Dr. Maxwell Prempeh

Q: Are there any vitamins I should avoid taking while taking heart medication?

A: When taking heart medication, one should avoid taking Vitamin D because it can cause plaque formation. Other than that, you shouldn’t have any other issues taking any vitamins or daily supplements.

Answer by: Dr. Digant Bhatt

Q: Why would someone have a pacemaker? How does a pacemaker work? How is it monitored, and can a patient feel it in their chest?

A: A pacemaker is a device that is implanted under the skin on the left side of the chest. It’s essentially a backup for your heart if your heart rate drops below a certain level that could be detrimental to your health. Although a patient will feel some soreness after the procedure, most patients do not feel the pacemaker.

Answer by: Dr. Charlie Baggett

Q: Heart disease is a leading cause of death for women. Are there any programs in the region designed to educate women specifically?

A: The American Heart Association is a great organization that provides many resources for cardiac education. Other than gaining information online, another great way to educate yourself about cardiac health is to talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns you have. The more knowledge you have, the better.

Answer by: Dr. Christopher Merritt

Q: What are your thoughts on using a trail system and coordinating a walking plan?

A: I highly recommend walking or biking to get your heart rate up and to keep your heart healthy. In Rome, Georgia, there is a wonderful trail system that is the perfect place for exercising. Also, Harbin Clinic offered a Walk with A Doc program that was a great way to help patients get active. Hopefully, the program will begin again after COVID-19 is over.

Answer by: Dr. Charlie Baggett

Q: I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in 2018. Does having this particular autoimmune disease along with Premature atrial contraction make someone high risk for COVID-19 and a greater chance of complications? Is there anything in particular I can do to reduce my risk of complications?

A: Although there is still developing data on the effect of COVID-19 on specific diseases, anyone who has an autoimmune disease, in general, is at a greater risk for contracting the disease and having more serious complications. The best advice to keep yourself safe is to keep in mind the COVID-19 precautions, including frequent hand washing, social distancing, and wearing a mask. 

Answer by: Dr. Maxwell Prempeh

Q: What are the indicators of AFib and what can be done to help prevent an AFib crisis?

A: The main symptom of AFib is a fast heart rate. Some other symptoms are feeling tired and having chest pain. A lot of AFib symptoms go unnoticed, so checking your heart rate at home is very important. If your heart rate sustains over 100, tell your doctor. When it comes to preventing AFib, studies show that if you drink 2-4 cups of black coffee a day, you’ll have less AFib, not more. Another way to prevent it is by treating the risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes.

Answer by: Dr. Hunter Myers

Published March 3, 2021