February is Heart Month, how healthy is your heart?

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Older people, women, and those with diabetes often don't have the typical heart disease symptoms. (KTRK)

February is Heart Month and it begs the question, how healthy is your heart?

Dr. John Higgins, a Sports Cardiologist at UT Health and Harris Health, is the one who made this analogy:
If you let your car sit in the garage for months at a time, that engine might not run well. The same goes for our heart. If you're not exercising it, chances are your heart won't be working at its best.

If heart disease runs in your family or if you're middle-aged and starting a new exercise routine, Dr. Higgins recommends coming in for a stress test.

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"A stress test involves having someone hooked up to an electrocardiogram, which is an electrical tracing which can reflect traces going on in the heart, and then putting them on a treadmill machine and having them walk at progressively graded and levels of exercise," says Higgins.

Dr. Higgins looks for abnormalities and the potential of heart disease.

"The commonest form of heart disease is when you're not getting enough of a supply of nutrients and energy to the heart, which is a specialized pump, so the heart can't do the work," explains Higgins.

Dr. Higgins adds, "99 percent of the time, something is going to be different and not be right."

So, it's important to know the symptoms.

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"If you're getting chest tightness when you're exerting yourself, if you're getting shortness of breath, palpitations, getting light-headed, or if you've passed out at all if you've exercised," explains Higgins.

He adds, older people, women, and those with diabetes often don't have the typical heart disease symptoms.

"For example, being nauseated, getting more out of breath than normal, or even feeling dizzy or fatigued are other symptoms of heart disease," says Higgins.

Dr. Higgins recommends we should eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. He also says we can have a glass of red wine and piece of dark chocolate a day for our heart health.

We should do 30 minutes of cardio a day and an hour of cardio for kids.

Dr. Higgins recommends this in most cases before turning to medication or surgery. He also says sleep is an important factor to a healthy heart, so try to get your eight hours.
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