Heart Health month: Cardiologists aim for Texans to be more heart healthy

Cardiovascular disease is claiming more lives than all forms of cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases combined, according to experts.

However, Americans can do more to prevent an epidemic that accounted for more than 800,000 deaths in 2016. 

In the United States, heart disease, which includes coronary heart disease, hypertension and stroke, remains the leading cause of death. Despite these alarming statistics, the cardiologists at Seton Medical Center Hays in Kyle are looking to combat these diseases with treatment that goes beyond medication. 

For Dr. Vamsi Krishna, the medical director of the Cardiac Cath laboratory and cardiac rehab at Seton Hays, treatment for heart disease, hypertension and diabetes must begin at home. 

Krishna said while some forms of cardiovascular-related illnesses are genetic, a majority of them are modifiable, or preventable. 

“I really focus a lot on improving the number of exercises people are doing which should total to around 45 minutes per day, five days a week,” Krishna said. “Even if a patient loses a few pounds, I make sure to give them a hug and positive reinforcement. It’s difficult, but these changes can save lives.”

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), someone in the United States has a stoke every 40 seconds on average. In 2016, strokes accounted for one of every 19 deaths in the U.S.

Even if heart disease is genetic, Americans can prevent worsening health conditions with physical activity and improved nutrition.

In 2016, 26 percent of adults did not engage in leisure-time physical activity. Among children in grades 9-12, only around 27 percent met the AHA’s recommended 60-minutes of exercise. 

Krishna said he works with his patients through a multitude of treatments, which include dieting and exercise. 

Krishna said he speaks with patients on a personal level, learning about their health habits to distinguish how to appropriately tackle lifestyle changes. 

But in order to combat these illnesses, Krishna said the culture surrounding healthy habits must change. 

When Krishna moved to Central Texas after completing his residency training at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), he noticed different dietary trends between the two states. 

“The data on plant-based diet has shown to reduce cancer and heart disease very clearly,” he said. “So, there are more options for plant-based diets in states like California because it’s more accepted. In places like Austin, we are seeing a movement towards those trends, and that will be very important for people in Texas.” 

According to WalletHub, Texas is the 10th fattest state in the country, largely in part because of diet and lack of exercise. 

New technologies at Seton Hays allow doctors to catch early signs of cardiac-related illnesses, potentially save the lives of many Texans in the long run. 

“Here at Seton in Kyle, we have ‘Coronary Calcium CT Scoring,’ a non-invasive scan of the heart that takes one-minute and will identify if someone is having ongoing plaque rupture in their heart,” Krishna said. 

A calcium score of zero indicates that the 15-year risk of having cardiovascular death is less than one percent. A score of 400 would indicate someone is at high risk of cardiovascular death. 

Krishna said he wants Texans to identify what motivates them to live a healthier life. Every patient is different and has a unique set of needs.  

“A one-minute test can determine how aggressively we need to treat someone,” Krishna said. “Something so quick can give me great information. That’s how good the technology at Seton Hays is. We are passionate about this because it can save lives through proper treatment.”  

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