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February is American Heart Month

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

As American Heart Month approaches in February, health officials are campaigning to increase heart awareness.

"It's good to help the community become engaged and invest in their own health," said Siva Mohan, an interventional cardiologist with Southern Heart Specialists in Riverdale.

Mohan, who also provides services through the Southern Regional Health System, is urging area residents to increase their heart-healthy vocabulary.

"Heart disease is abundant in our community, as it is in other communities across the country," he said. "While cardiologists are doing a very good job on heart disease, overall, the burdens of heart disease continue to expand."

The American Heart Association identifies heart disease as the number one cause of death in the United States, with the most common type -- coronary heart disease -- most often resulting in heart attack.

Mohan said the likelihood of a person suffering a heart attack can be greatly reduced, if the person would simply choose a healthier lifestyle. He advises everyone to be more active and commit to some form of daily exercise to improve cardiovascular health, and lose weight -- if needed. He said quitting bad habits, such as smoking, or excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages, also improves heart health.

"These are simple, preventative measures that people can do," said Mohan, adding that diet, too, contributes to the risk of heart attack and heart disease. He said people generally should choose diets with smaller portions, and more vegetables.

Kimberly Redding, director of the Georgia Department of Community Health's Prevention and Wellness Program, echoed Mohan's advise. "The top prevention initiative is a healthy lifestyle, which includes a healthy diet of lean meats and poultry; low-fat dairy products; lower salt, sugar and alcohol intake; and incorporates physical activity into the daily routine," she said.

Redding stressed, also, the importance of knowing the symptoms of heart disease and heart attack. She said knowing the warning signs may help people receive the necessary treatment that can save a life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are several warning signs related to serious heart disease complications, including:

* Discomfort in the center of the chest that feels like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. The discomfort normally lasts more than a few minutes,

* Discomfort or pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach,

* Shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat, and nausea or lightheadedness.

"The main thing is to develop a relationship with your care provider, your physician ...," said Mohan, the cardiologist. He said he often has to convince patients -- young, old, overweight, or even those at their ideal weight -- that healthier living could save their lives. "Some young people, who are leading unhealthy lifestyles, have a false sense of security about the disease," he said.

People should be tested, or screened, for heart disease, he said, to help determine their risk. "Some people are afraid to hear about it, because they don't want to know about it or deal with it," he said. "Heart disease and stroke kill more people in our country on a yearly basis than any other disease process. This is something we should be screening very aggressively."

In an effort to raise heart-disease awareness in February, officials at Henry Medical Center, in Stockbridge, plan to hold free cholesterol screenings on Feb. 11, and Feb. 25. Both screenings will be held in the hospital's South Tower Atrium, from 1 to 6 p.m. Participants will receive a screening and a cardiovascular risk assessment.

The Southern Regional Heart and Vascular Department is also providing discounted vascular screenings for: stroke in the carotid artery; abdominal aortic aneurysm; and peripheral arterial disease.

"People should be screened aggressively at health fairs, or wherever possible," added Mohan. "There is no excuse, in this day and age, with all of the opportunities we have."

Additionally, for the month of February, the state's Department of Community Health will take part in the National Wear Red Day on Feb. 5, to raise awareness of heart disease in women.

For more information on Henry Medical Center's Heart Health Screenings, call the hospital's community education department at (678) 604-1040. To learn more about screenings through the Southern Regional Health System, call its heart and vascular department at (770) 991-8144, or call Southern Heart Specialists at (770) 991-2100.

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On the net:

Southern Regional Health System: www.southernregional.org

Southern Heart Specialists: www.soheart.com

Henry Medical Center:

www.henrymedical.com