At the “Heart” of All

By: Yvonne Godfrey Last Updated: February 7, 2014

It's American Heart Month!

Thursday evening marked the beginning of a series of heart-healthy programs presented by Porter Regional Health. Terri Gingerich, the Cardiovascular Service Line Director, helped explain why this event – and the others in the series throughout the month – are important.

"There have been a lot of recent changes with guidelines and – from the medical community – the evidence of how we keep our heart healthy, so we wanted to get everybody up to speed on that and really just make sure that our community is informed. First and foremost, we want to keep people healthy...So, this is really just our commitment to the community," Gingerich said.

This first event, aptly entitled "Get Heart Smart", featured a presentation by Dr. Jay Shah. Dr. Shah is a quadruple board-certified cardiologist with special interests and training in preventative heart health and wellness who joined the cardiology team at Porter in September 2013. His presentation was incredibly informative and well worth the time in the Community Room at Porter Regional Hospital in Valparaiso.

"I've been in medicine for about a decade now and the more I learn about cardiovascular care, the more you realize that as much as we have high-tech medical technology available to patients after they've had devastating heart problems – strokes, things like that – the best solution – really – is to prevent all of that from happening," Dr. Shah said.

Dr. Shah's presentation focused on the idea that although heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, there is so much we can do to better ourselves and to prevent heart incidents and to lessen the effect of our genetic predispositions. Dr. Shah shared the criteria cardiologists examine to determine heart health: Body Mass Index, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and tobacco use. After examining each of these in detail – with plenty of audience questions and comments – he went on to the keys of a heart healthy life. Physical activity, diet, stop taking in poison (here, he was aiming mostly at tobacco usage), and, jokingly, choose good parents.

While he recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five to seven days a week, Dr. Shah endears with his confession that he finds that difficult to do, but stresses that the benefits of exercise far outweigh the 1/48 of the day devoted to it. In addition to controlling weight, improving cholesterol, establishing heart-healthy habits for children, and helping to prevent chronic illnesses associated with age, did you know that physical activity helps manage stress and release tension, prevents bone loss, boosts energy levels, counters anxiety and depression? Physical activity, hands down, is the best thing you can do for yourself, your quality of life, and your independence. At the "heart" of this is to avoid a sedentary lifestyle, maintain a healthy diet, and be mindful of your habits. The everyday opportunities we have today have the ability to change our health in the future and well into tomorrow.

Looking for some quick tips? The basic outline of Dr. Shah's was this:

"The keys to leading a heart-healthy life, including the importance of weight control, physical activity, knowing your cholesterol, knowing your blood pressure, seeing your doctor on a regular basis and making sure that all the things that have to get addressed are addressed before those problems."

Get Heart Smart was a success. I learned a great deal and felt the knowledge being ingested by those around me. For those of you who are also interested in your heart health – and those of your loved ones – you still have the chance to make it to three more Heart Month events, complete with refreshments!

Looking for one big take-away? Here's what Dr. Shah would say to you:

"The best solution is to never have that heart problem."

Pre-registration is required for the remaining events throughout the month, {valpo}so follow this link{/valpo}{portage}so follow this link{/portage}{laporte}so follow this link{/laporte}{nwindiana}so follow this link{/nwindiana} or call 1-800-541-1861 to register for next week's event, How Clogged Are Your Arteries, Thursday, February 13, for the following week's presentation, PAD Is Bad , Thursday, February 20, and/or the final presentation, Get Back in Rhythm, Wednesday, February 26. Come on down to Porter Regional Hospital's Community Room at 6pm!