Co-Director, Stony Brook University Heart Institute; Chief, Cardiology;
Director, Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathy Program;
Co-Director, Ventricular Assist Device Program;
Ambassador Charles A. Gargano Chair in Cardiology
Every 40 seconds, an American will have a heart attack, nearly five million are living with heart failure and about five percent of the population has an arrhythmia. Yet as alarming as this may sound, the good news is that many issues leading up to heart disease are within our control. Here’s what Stony Brook Chief of Cardiology, Hal Skopicki, MD, PhD, has to say about investing in your heart health.
Heart Health Under Age 40 — Forming Healthy Habits
Think of the teenage years to age 40 as the optimal time to invest in your heart health. Cholesterol build-up usually starts as early as the teens and by the age of 40, for many, we can see changes in the arteries. Developing habits early in life are critical: getting aerobic exercise on a daily basis, eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods and staying away from sugarladen soda and energy drinks can help set the groundwork for a healthy heart lifestyle. Other critical decisions are to not smoke, and to avoid drugs and excess alcohol. Even people who use e-cigarettes every day have twice the risk of heart attack, and drug misuse can have major cardiovascular consequences.
Avoiding Heart Disease — Ages 40 to 60
In middle age, we see many people — whether due to family history, high blood pressure, or cholesterol and blood sugar levels — show the early signs of heart disease. For these patients, it’s critical to define what is reversible and what can be done to slow the progression. Sometimes, all it takes is evaluation and change. For some, it may be the amount of salt, sugar or cholesterol in the diet that is putting you at risk. For others, you may need more movement in your day. Start by talking with your doctor about an exercise plan that is right for you; for example, it may mean 30 minutes of physical activity on most days or multiple 10-minute sessions throughout the day. Most important, work with your physician to identify the factors that control your specific risk profile.
60+ — Staying in Charge
For our patients who are in the over-60 age range, our goal is to help them take charge of their health, even if heart disease is already present. Having symptoms that are not being controlled by medication, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue or palpitations, is a red flag that something more needs to be done. We work with each patient and their family members to optimize care. Whatever the barrier to self-care, Stony Brook’s team of heart disease experts looks for workable ways to address it.
Focusing on Optimizing Heart Health
We know that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to heart health and each person’s risk profile is different. Determining an individual’s barriers to good heart health involves working closely with the patient and the referring physician, and providing our patients with the education and tools to minimize or eliminate their symptoms, lower their risk and potentially reverse the progression of disease that is already present.
Top-Rated Heart Care
When you come to Stony Brook Heart Institute, you can feel confident that you will receive expert and compassionate cardiac care. As Long Island’s only Chest Pain Center with Primary PCI and Resuscitation Accreditation, Stony Brook is a leader in saving the lives of heart attack victims and is among the top hospitals in the country when it comes to bringing lifesaving emergency cardiac care. Healthgrades recognized us as one of America’s 100 Best Hospitals for Cardiac Care for seven years in a row and Coronary Intervention for six years in a row. We are proud that our patient outcomes for survival with heart failure are among the best nationally, according to Hospital Compare, and we received the Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award from the American Heart Association in recognition of our commitment to applying the latest guidelines to help patients with heart failure live healthier lives.