American Heart Month: 3 questions with a Nashville cardiologist

It’s never to early to develop heart-healthy habits, according to Nashville’s Dr. Jay Patel.

February is American Heart Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about cardiovascular health.

Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital Midtown | Photo by NASHtoday

February is American Heart Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about cardiovascular health. We spoke with Dr. Jay Patel, a cardiologist with Ascension Saint Thomas Heart, about why it’s never too soon to embrace heart-healthy habits even as early as your 20s and 30s.

Q: What are some misconceptions about heart health and young people and how can they be corrected?

One of the major misconceptions is that people don’t recognize heart conditions can start as early as their 20s, more commonly in their 30s. Routine preventative health screening tests can help identify things early on and help prevent major issues. I think people just need to be a little more aware that although heart attacks do not happen very frequently at the age of 30, it does happen to a number of people.

Q: You mentioned the importance of health screening tests — what other advice would you give to people who want to take proactive steps for heart health in the long term?

There are three main categories, one being routine health exercise. It’s recommended to exercise ~30 minutes a day for a minimum of five days a week. The second is dietary, so eating healthy and having at least one to two servings of vegetables and fruits a day with moderate consumption of alcohol — or minimal to no consumption of alcohol. The third is social aspects, things like tobacco avoidance, which is a big risk factor for having heart disease.

Q: What would you like for people to keep in mind as American Heart Month comes to an end?

It’s important to recognize that even though you might not have a family history, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Be proactive and preventative on terms of your healthcare and get some kind of annual screening with your primary care doctor — and you don’t even need to see a doctor to check your blood pressure. You can use a blood pressure machine at a grocery store every six months to make sure that things look OK.

[Health] can change over five-year time periods. If everything is normal today, that doesn’t mean that you’re good to go for another 20 years.

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