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Courtesy of St. Clair Hospital

Andy Kiser, M.D., MBA, is chief of cardiac surgery at St. Clair Hospital.

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Unlike other years, many of the local and regional hospitals have put the annual events surrounding American Heart Month this February aside because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

However, St. Clair Hospital’s Andy Kiser, M.D., MBA, chief of cardiac surgery, is offering ways for heart patients to deal with the pandemic and urges all of them to not back away from continued heart care and exercise.

“COVID scared a lot of people,” Kiser said. “That kind of emotion can cause havoc, especially among higher-aged heart patients.”

The surgeon said heart-patients who were experiencing trouble balked or backed away from going to the doctor’s office or hospital because of fear.

“Our main concern is to make sure people with heart disease get the care they need,” the doctor said. “As for exercising, people can’t go as freely to the mall and walk as in the past. Some have had to find new ways to exercise to try and stay in shape.

“It’s a brave new world in creating one’s own way to exercise.”

Kiser said more people have been eating at home an extended period of time and that can help in controlling diet and the ingredients that go into a meal. He added the additional time spent closer with family should also have been helpful in terms of being surrounded by people who care and love each other and look out for the well-being of another.

Typically, American Heart Month is celebrated each February.

Every year, more than 600,000 Americans die from heart disease. The number one cause of deaths for most groups, heart disease affects all ages, genders, and ethnicities. Risk factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes and excessive alcohol use.

Some ways to take an active role in reducing the risk for heart disease is to eat a healthy diet, exercise and manage cholesterol and blood pressure.

Heart disease occurs when the arteries leading to the heart become clogged. Although heart disease has been around for thousands of years, we do know that many aspects of life can exacerbate risk factors and make people more prone to heart disease and heart failure.

One in four deaths in the United States is attributable to heart disease. Heart disease can impact everyone, however paying attention to prior health risks, activities and diet can help one reduce risk.

It has been suggested to celebrate American Heart Month, for all to spend time to learn about heart health risks, find your favorite heart-healthy activities and cook some healthy meals with your family.

Five heart healthy activities for heart health month

Get moving

The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Regular exercise can decrease stress levels while lowering the risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Find some zen

Elevated stress levels are often found among patients with heart disease. Find what works to be able to lower daily stressors. Yoga helps de-stress and get people moving while helping to find peace and balance. Meditating and journaling are other great options.

Eat clean(er)

Loading up a plate with heart healthy foods will reap benefits for everyone. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and clean eating can help achieve that. Choose whole grains, lean meats and healthy fats while avoiding foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.

Moderate alcohol

Many studies have shown drinking in moderation, particularly antioxidant rich red wine, can promote heart health. Moderate drinking means one drink a day. Drinking in excess of that can cause more harm than good and lead to an increase in blood triglyceride levels which can result in high blood pressure, heart failure and obesity.

Check in with doctors

Scheduling annual checkups with a primary care practitioner is a good way to be proactive about heart health. Having blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked is also a good practice. Talking to doctors about any family history of heart disease is also encouraged.

St. Clair Hospital’s 2021 Cardiovascular Virtual Town Hall can be downloaded at: https://youtu.be/jvkNnDAC24Y.

Those interested in joining the Be Local Network can contact Chris Slota at 724-225-1326 or by email at chris@belocal.net. Discount cards are available at the Observer-Reporter and Almanac office, 122 S. Main St., Washington.

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