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Heart Disease - What You Should Know With Dr. Allan Mattern pt. 1

Each February our attention turns to matters of the heart. And we're not talking about the kind filled with those little chocolates or emblazoned with the words "Be Mine". No, the actual heart takes center stage this month as our health community nationally pays attention to that which keeps our blood pumping: our hearts and circulatory system.

One of the core systems of the body, the heart and circulatory system are crucial to your overall health. But all too often cases of heart disease and the ailments that affect our circulatory system can be preventable and it remains the largest killer of Americans each year. Heart disease consistently ranks as the number one or two cause of non-accidental death in the Unites States.

We caught up with Memorial Hospital of Converse County's own Cardiologist Dr. Allan Mattern to discuss Heart health and how to minimize risks to this core system of our health.

"This is a very expensive kind of disease to have in terms of national costs, a great deal of our health dollars go into the research and treatment of heart disease. And a considerable amount of heart disease is preventable or we can reduce the problems with it with good lifestyle and taking care of yourself," said Dr. Mattern.

There are billions of dollars spent annually on treatment of heart disease in the United States, but what about locally in Wyoming? What are the specific concerns revolving around the heart in our state? "Wyoming is a big smoking state. We see a lot of heart disease in otherwise healthy people because there is heavy smoking. The other thing in Wyoming that is a problem is obesity. Obesity frequently is a risk factor for heart disease, but that is secondary to the fact that many of these patients develop Type 2 Diabetes. When we look at Wyoming, what is special is that heart disease is still the number one or number two cause of non-accidental death in the state. We tend to be outdoor people in Wyoming, and that's good we get some exercise. But obesity and smoking remain a problem. Smoking is dropping off, but even chewing tobacco and vapor cigarettes both have some factor on heart disease and are not healthy for you."

Further concerns on heart health in the Cowboy State, drug abuse particularly Methamphetamine. "There are certain drugs, meth and so forth that can cause severe problems with the heart. If you look at an artery that might be the size of a pencil, if someone is using meth it might get down to the size of a string."

Dr. Mattern continued, "I've seen young patients who you go in and attempt to take pictures of their arteries and you can't find them because they are so constricted when they're using drugs. Meth is a really big big problem and we can see heart attacks in twenty year olds, massive heart attacks. And it's not just at the time they are using because using the drug it can happen up to a month later even if you're not using the drug."

Who is most at risk for developing heart disease? "As you age your chances of having more heart disease is very much dependent on what you do as a young person. If you are overweight, if you smoke, if you have a problem with a family history of heart disease, if you're not exercising… lifestyle makes a huge difference in who is going to get heart disease and who is not."

There are differences in how men and women develop heart disease, and while mitigating factors like family history and lifestyle play significant roles the symptoms that present can differ. "Women present differently than men, they are much more difficult at times to diagnose because their symptoms can be quite different than men. And so you have this problem of women usually developing the disease at a later time in their late fifties to early sixties where men typically develop heart disease in their late forties to early fifties. Patients come in with discomfort in their chest, unusual fatigue or palpitations where their heart feels like its skipping or pounding or racing."

Not to be missed also are symptoms like unusual shortness of breath that is new or heightened with exercise, discomfort in your chest (not sharp sticky pains) akin to burning, pressure aching, indigestion or discomfort in-between your shoulder blades all the way up to your neck and jaw or down one or both arms, or your right arm in women. A lot of people think it's just the left but women can be a-typical, so you really need to be checked if you are showing these symptoms.

Dr. Allan Mattern is a board certified Cardiologist and graduate of the Yale University of Medicine served 21 years of both active and reserve duty in the United States Navy. He is a former Governor of the American College of Cardiology for Wyoming (1982-85; 1991-94) Dr. Mattern sees patients at Memorial Hospital of Converse County in Douglas, Wyoming every Tuesday.