Eight heart-health questions that could save your life

Cardiologist Beth Abramson, a spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, reveals how a little awareness — plus a healthy dose of diet and exercise — is more powerful than drugs when it comes to saving your life.
Istockphoto Istockphoto Q: What is heart disease? A: It’s many conditions of the heart including angina [chest], arrhythmia, heart attacks and more. Another concerning one is coronary artery disease, or atherosclerosis, which is plaque buildup in the arteries. Q: What is the most common heart attack symptom? A: Chest discomfort or heaviness that radiates to your arm, jaw or throat. Get medical attention if you feel this. Q: How does excess plaque affect heart function? A: Too much plaque reduces blood flow, eventually creating chest pain [angina] that feels like squeezing, burning or suffocating. If a blood clot develops, it cuts blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack. Q: What’s the best treatment for heart disease? A: Lifestyle changes and meds, like cholesterol-lowering statins. Some may need angioplasty or surgery. Q: For prevention, where is the best place to start? A: Eat more fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise for at least 30 minutes three times a week. Q: How do men and women deal with heart attack symptoms differently? A: Symptoms are similar, but women tend to minimize their symptoms. I’ve had several female patients come to the emergency room and say to me, “It couldn’t be my heart — maybe it’s my stomach or my gallbladder.” Q: Studies suggest women with heart disease often go undiagnosed. Why? A: It could be that doctors didn’t always have heart disease high on their radar screens for women. They’re now more aware, thanks to national awareness campaigns like Q: Is there one heart-health test we should insist on during annual checkups? A: Ask your doctor to check your waist circumference [heart-disease], weight and blood pressure. Then, based on your age, consider a fasting cholesterol test or blood sugar test. Let your doctor know your family history. Follow the jump to read our full heart health special report.


Subscribe to our newsletters for our very best stories, recipes, style and shopping tips, horoscopes and special offers.

By signing up, you agree to our terms of use and privacy policy. You may unsubscribe at any time.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.