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Decoding Doc Speak: Your Cheat Sheet to Heart Health

Our family dinner time often felt like we were taking a trip through a day in my mom's life as an RN in the cardiac care unit and the operating room. Sometimes you needed a strong constitution to enjoy some of the conversations that took place! I promise you they were never bland, and I’m not just talking about the seasoning!

Before my mom hung up her scrubs, (a.k.a.retired) Mom occasionally gave us an anatomy and physiology lesson. Not every day, but it might be true to say I learned more about the human body by passing the peas than some do in the biology classroom.  I remember the vivid (and yes, occasionally gross) conversations with a smile on my face today because they sparked a lifelong fascination with the human body. It was sort of like our very own “The More You Know” (I think that was NBC)— I didn’t realize then how much those dinnertime chats would shape my approach to coaching today, breaking down complex concepts into digestible (pun intended) bits.

It IS a miraculous machine, especially when you treat it right.

So I decided to put together some thoughts to keep handy when chatting with your doctors! And one of those doctors should probably be a cardiologist of your heart starts sending you signals (and I’m not talking about the lovey-dovey kind from Valentine’s Day), like unusual fatigue or a family history of heart issues or concerns, getting out of breath and yes, even menopause, it might be time to see a specialist. I like to think of it as doing your homework before the big test - preventative care at its finest.

Questions to Consider Asking

❓"What should I watch out for regarding heart disease, especially with my family history and all?"

❓ "How's my lifestyle doing for my heart, and got any tips for me to do better?"

❓ "Can we talk about my cholesterol?

❓ What's good, what's bad, and how can I fix it?"

❓ "My blood pressure numbers—what do they mean, and what should I do about them?"

❓ "Triglycerides sound serious. What's up with mine, and how do I keep them in check?"

❓ "Can we figure out how at risk I am for heart problems and make a plan to avoid them?"

❓ "Menopause and heart health—what's the deal, and how can I handle the changes?"

❓ "Any specific checks or tests you think I should get for my heart?"

❓ "What are the red flags for heart issues I should keep an eye on?"

❓ "Stress and feeling down—how do they mess with my heart, and what can I do to feel better?"

❓ "Overall, how's my heart doing, and what's your best advice for me to keep it healthy?"

For many of these questions and the answers might sound familiar—eat well, stay active, avoid smoking, and moderate your alcohol intake. However, listening to your body and having open conversations is crucial to delve deeper during your discussions with your doctor, especially if new concerns or changes arise in your life. I believe it’s best to always be your own strongest health advocate.

Decoding Doc-Speak:

💕 Blood Pressure: This measures the force of your blood against artery walls, recorded as two numbers: systolic, the top number (pressure during a heartbeat) and diastolic, the bottom number (pressure between heartbeats).

💕 Cholesterol: This substance in your blood is vital for cell building, but excess levels can harm heart health. LDL cholesterol (often called the bad cholesterol) can accumulate in arteries, posing risks, whereas HDL cholesterol (often called the good cholesterol helps remove the bad cholesterol, protecting heart health.

💕 A1C Test: Measures average blood sugar levels over the past few months to diagnose and monitor diabetes.

💕 Blood Sugar (Glucose): The main sugar in your blood, essential for energy. Proper management is crucial for diabetes care.

💕 Type 1 Diabetes: A condition where the body doesn't produce insulin, often diagnosed early in life.

💕 Type 2 Diabetes: A more common form where the body struggles with insulin use or production, often related to lifestyle and genetics.As we navigate the journey to heart health, it’s important to approach discussions with healthcare providers equipped with knowledge and clarity.

💕 EKG (Electrocardiogram): A test that tracks the heart's electrical activity to identify any abnormalities.

💕 Echocardiogram: An ultrasound for the heart that evaluates the condition of heart chambers, valves, and its pumping efficiency.

💕 Statins: Medications designed to reduce cholesterol levels, thereby lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke.

💕 ACE Inhibitors: These drugs reduce blood pressure and are beneficial in treating heart failure, easing the heart's workload.

💕 Palpitations: When you feel your heart is fluttering, beating too fast, or skipping beats, which could indicate heart health issues.

💕 Atherosclerosis: The accumulation of fats and cholesterol on artery walls, which can hinder blood flow.

💕 Afib (Atrial Fibrillation): A type of irregular heartbeat that can increase the risk of stroke, heart failure, and other complications. Symptoms may include palpitations, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

💕 Cardiomyopathy: A condition where the heart muscle struggles to pump blood effectively throughout the body.

💕 Arrhythmia: Any deviation from the normal rhythm of the heartbeat, whether too fast, too slow, or irregular.

💕 Ischemia: Indicates reduced blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle, potentially leading to chest pain or heart attack.

💕 TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack): Often called a mini-stroke, a TIA is a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain that causes stroke-like symptoms but doesn't cause permanent damage. It's a warning sign of a possible future stroke and should be taken seriously.

💕 Ocular Stroke: Also known as retinal artery occlusion, an ocular stroke occurs when the blood flow to the retina is blocked. It can lead to sudden but usually temporary vision loss in one eye. Just like brain strokes, it's a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention as it can signal broader vascular problems.

💕 Stroke: A medical emergency that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients. Strokes can be caused by blockages (ischemic stroke) or bleeding (hemorrhagic stroke) in the brain and can lead to lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or even death.

💕 Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): A condition where arteries narrow, reducing blood flow, particularly to the legs.

💕 Stent: A small tube placed in a blocked passage to keep it open and ensure blood flow.

Angioplasty: A procedure to open up narrowed or blocked arteries, often involving a stent to keep the artery open.

By familiarizing yourself with these terms, you can have more in-depth and informed conversations with your healthcare provider about your heart health. This knowledge empowers you to be an active participant in your care, ensuring you understand the treatments and tests that may be discussed.

Taking care of your heart isn’t just about dodging illness; it’s about enhancing your and ensuring you’re there for the moments that truly matter — from family dinners (heart-themed or not) to every milestone in between.  Every step towards heart health, no matter how small, is a step towards a life filled with more “I love yous,” more laughs, and more unforgettable memories.

So, here’s to making heart health a delicious part of our lives, one fun fact (and dinner conversation) at a time. Because, as I learned early on, the more you know, the better you can love your heart.

Keep those hearts happy and those conversations lively!

Medical Information came from these websites:


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