Lifestyle Changes Can Protect Your Heart


High Blood Pressure, Cholesterol Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease remains the No. 1 cause of death for Americans, but people can take several steps to improve their heart health. February is American Heart Month.

Coronary heart disease, which affects blood flow to the heart and can cause a heart attack is the most common heart disease in the United States. Patrick Mannebach, MD, said high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease since it puts more pressure on the heart.

“Many people may not even realize they have high blood pressure since it does not always produce recognizable symptoms,” said Dr. Mannebach, a cardiologist with ThedaCare Cardiovascular Care. “It is important people know what their blood pressure is and take steps to bring it to normal levels if it is too high.”

Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and getting more exercise, and medication can both help lower blood pressure.

Dr. Mannebach said high cholesterol is another risk factor for heart disease. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made by the liver and found in certain foods. If a person takes in more cholesterol than the body can use, the extra can build up on the walls of the arteries, which causes them to narrow. The narrowing of the arteries can decrease the blood flow to the heart.

“The same things you do to lower your blood pressure can help lower your cholesterol, too,” he said. “Eating a healthy diet, getting exercise and sometimes taking medication can lower the amount of cholesterol building up in the arteries.”

Smoking is another risk factor for heart disease, Dr. Mannebach said. “Smoking damages the walls of your arteries and can cause a build-up of fatty material there that could clog the arteries and lead to a heart attack,” he said.

Dr. Mannebach said it is important everyone knows the common signs and symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back
  • Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness

“If you have any of these symptoms, it is essential to seek medical help immediately,” Dr. Mannebach said. “Please realize that you do not need to have all of these symptoms and that men and women can have different symptoms. If you are unsure, it is best to have it checked out.”

For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,800 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 34 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.  The ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton opened last February. For more information, visit www.thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.