For American Heart Month, we spoke to Dr. Ankitkumar Patel, interventional cardiologist and the director of the Cardiac catheterization laboratory at Mountainside Medical Center to discuss his thoughts on the importance of this month. “Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States,” shares Dr. Patel. “Many of the problems (heart attacks, strokes and heart failure) can be prevented with lifestyle changes and increasing awareness. Having a month dedicated to the heart is a way to remind the public of the importance of these facts with an aim at prevention, early detection and effective treatment.”
When it comes to prevention Dr. Patel shares the importance of knowing your blood pressure. “Blood pressure is one of the most significant risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” he says. “We often refer to it as the ‘silent killer’ as most people will not feel when their blood pressure is elevated until something significant happens (heart attack, stroke, kidney failure). With lifestyle changes, diet modification, medication therapy, weight loss and exercise it is very manageable and treatable.” Also, for the first time in 14 years, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology released a new set of blood pressure guidelines last year. Previously high blood pressure was defined with a reading of 140/90 or higher. Now, individuals with readings of 130/80 are considered to have high blood pressure. “The lowering of the blood pressure guidelines will allow us to intensify screening and monitoring for a greater at-risk population with the aim to lower cardiovascular diseases down the road.”
If you are considered to have high blood pressure, Dr. Patel recommends purchasing a home blood pressure monitor. “It is a great tool to allow for greater monitoring. With a home blood pressure monitor, a patient can come to his/her visit with me with dozens of readings and we can make a much more personalized management strategy. The frequency of checking should be discussed with a consultation of your primary care doctor or cardiologist but I often recommend checking it once a day, sometimes in the morning, afternoon or evening to allow for a broad selection of readings.”
Along with monitoring your blood pressure, Dr. Patel also recommends a healthy lifestyle, which includes a well-balanced diet based off the food pyramid and an exercise program focused on cardio and weight training. “Both are important aspects of a healthy lifestyle. In addition, stress management, alcohol/smoking/illicit use cessation, risk factor modification all play critical roles. Overall, prevention is the key to heart disease.”
Dr. Patel found his passion for Cardiology during a sub-internship in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit in medical school.There is where he fell in love with the variety of cardiac ailments, the research-based medical therapies and diversity of treatment options. “Cardiology coupled my ability to focus on prevention and education in the office setting while performing advanced interventional procedures in the cardiac catheterization laboratory. It allows for each day to be unique and very fulfilling.” To learn more about Mountainside Medical Center’s Cardiology services, please click here.