By Brendan J. Mulholland
February, the time when many celebrate love as St. Valentine’s Day approaches, is the perfect time to take stock in one’s own health. To truly love someone an individual must love themselves first. Keeping oneself healthy is a key ingredient to love, so much so that the American Heart Association has declared February as National Heart Month. The purpose is to raise awareness for cardiac health issues.
It’s no secret that the number one cause of death across America is heart disease and yet it is so often preventable. Inevitably, many individuals needlessly succumb to heart disease due to their hectic lifestyles and taking their health for granted.
As primary care physicians we find our cardiologist colleagues to be an invaluable resource in assisting in the care of our cardiac patients. Caring for a patient with heart disease is one thing but preventing and detecting early heart disease is a whole different story.
Heart disease in many instances is a silent killer. It’s not until chest pain, shortness of breath, or swelling in the legs occur do people seek medical attention. At this stage detection is simple but often very late as heart damage may have set in. So what should an individual do? The best advice we physicians can give is to simply recommend for an individual to come in for an annual physical exam.
A physical should include a comprehensive examination and even more importantly a detailed history. This, along with an electrocardiogram (EKG) and blood tests, will enable a physician to correctly identify an individual’s risk factors that may promote heart disease. Having an annual physical is really a simple endeavor, many individuals will schedule it around their birthday so they won’t forget. Most insurance companies recognize the importance of such an exam and waive the patient’s co-pay, thereby eliminating any financial burden on an individual.