February 5, 2023

Cardiologists encourage heart health education

Feb. 5—February is American Heart Awareness month, and cardiologists at Baptist Health Richmond are encouraging residents to be aware of signs and symptoms of disease and to continue with their heart checkups.

However, while the pandemic has continued, experts at BHR have continued to face a decrease in patients receiving check ups due to the fear of the virus.

According to Scott Cook, a cardiologist at BHR, this trend began at the onset of the pandemic, throughout last year and into 2022.

“The amount of people seeking medical care has fallen way down in the COVID pandemic,” he said.

Because numbers were down in those coming in for checkups, Cook predicted last year there would be a surge in patients wanting check ups once fear of the virus lifted.

However, as more variants arose, a number of those willing to come to the hospital stayed tapered off.

That is why, throughout February, and any other time of year, the hospital staff are hoping to continue education to the public about signs, symptoms and their risk of heart disease — especially for women.

According to Cook, one-in-five women die from heart disease, more than all types of cancers combined due to atypical symptoms, and being under-recognized.

“If you look at clinical trials, only about 38% are women, and most have atypical symptoms,” Cook said. “That is not to say it is more prevalent, it just can be easily looked over or missed as symptoms can be non-traditional.”

Progressive fatigue or shortness of breath can be symptoms to look for. Sharing that information is part of raising awareness for heart month.

Depending on what symptoms an individual is experiencing, Cook said that will determine where someone should be seen or evaluated. That is why knowing the symptoms is of great importance.

Cook stated if someone is experiencing acute, quick onset symptoms, they should be seen at an emergency room. One example of this is a heart attack which can involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. This can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

Symptoms can also include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

Other signs can include shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

However, individuals can be seen at any time by a primary care physician or cardiologist if they have concerns.

If people want to check their risk assessment for heart disease, they can do so with the BaptistHealth.com/HeartCare link.

“This is a good tool for people to have because if you score high on the assessment, you can decide if you at least talk to primary care or a cardiologist,” said Cook. “I know we are happy to see anyone who would want to speak with us about their concerns.”