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Heart Disease - What You Should Know With Dr. Allan Mattern pt. 2

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 the second part of our two part series with Dr. Mattern on heart disease.

So much of your risks for developing heart disease are preventable and come down to lifestyle choices. "You hear it all the time but it's diet and exercise. There's no doubt about it, we're all bad at that. We don't get enough exercise. I mean you've got ranchers and the people who work in the oil field, but we've got an awful lot of sedentary occupations here. And people don't exercise as much as they should. That doesn't mean you have to go out and lift weights and run ten miles, though. Walking is good." Studies have shown that if you can get in 20-30 minutes a day, 2 hours per week, of aerobic exercise, walking on a treadmill, outside, or riding a bike stationary or otherwise that is best. And then some light muscular exercises along with that. Moderation in exercise actually can increase your life expectancy significantly.

"Diets are important, but there are a lot of fad diets out there. First of all it's not so much what you eat it's how much you eat. The diets that are good are the South Beach Diet; the Mediterranean Diet is probably the best. If you look at those who eat Mediterranean style, that includes pasta by the way, but a lot of salads, fruits & vegetables lean meats and good fats, they don't have the same kinds of heart disease we do. We tend to overeat, we get the maximum and we like more for our money so now they're making everything larger. It's not so much that you need to eat a special diet, but control your calories."

Further diet advice includes to watch your portion sizes, limit or completely cut soft drinks, even diet drinks as they tend to encourage weight gain, and also including wine in your diet.

Working with your physician and getting simple screenings for blood sugars, lipids, LDL and HDL cholesterol can help monitor your risk factors outside of family history. "What we recommend, and your family physician is perfectly capable of doing this, sometime that you have an evaluation of your cholesterol, your lipid profile, your kidney function and your blood sugar to make sure those are all normal."

When is best to start this screening process? "If you have a family history of heart disease, if you have a father that had heart problems under the age of 55 or a mother that had heart disease early on, then as early as your twenties you should get these screening tests done to make sure because some people have high cholesterol that's not treated and you can prevent that. We do those screening tests and we don't typically need to do stress tests and all kinds of high priced studies early on if we're just checking to see if you have risks." A typical blood panel screening is offered every year as well at local health fairs and as mentioned before your health care provider can assist in providing these screenings in their offices and send the samples to a lab for testing. The average cost? Well within most people's budget and helps to add to your overall knowledge of your health and your chances for developing heart disease and other conditions.

"We do a great deal of our diagnosis by risk evaluation. So we look at what your risk would be for example over ten year period and whether you have a say 7.5% risk of having a heart attack over that period. We have protocols we can then follow for treatment."

Keeping to a good diet and exercise regimen, which includes 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day can keep obesity in check. Developing Type 2 Diabetes, which is increasing to epidemic levels as well, can heighten your chances for poor heart health.

If you do develop heart disease there are important factors you must understand and implement. "First of all you need to take some responsibility for your own health. As a physician, I'm not responsible for your long-term health, you are. You have to take responsibility, because we can tell you what you should do. But if you don't take your meds, you don't get the tests done, you don't try to make lifestyle changes then what I'm doing is only going to make a niche. That's an important thing to understand."

As well working with your doctor, making lifestyle changes, taking your medications as prescribed and avoiding the use of herbal supplements helps overall in keeping you to your heart health plan. "The United States has a multi-billion dollar herbal business, none of which is screened by the FDA. But particularly if you're on mediation some of these supplements cause interference with the metabolism of the drug. It can raise or lower the level of the drug. Some of these things have constrictors of your arteries in them. And if you have heart disease you can have a angina or a heart attack by taking some of that stuff. It's a huge huge business, uncontrolled business, so be wary. Do not take stuff that's not prescribed for you."

While heart attack is probably the number one concern associated with heart disease there are many other concerns including: Long Term Hypertension, Cardio Myopathies and Stroke.

The more we concentrate on our diet and our activity levels, the better our chances of living longer and fuller lives. "The problem we consistently have is that we could prevent so much of it," concluded Dr. Mattern.

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.