Everyone knows the importance of having a healthy heart. Yet, for a variety of factors, heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.
For PeaceHealth patients in Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties, expert cardiologists can help with a variety of cardiovascular issues. At Sedro-Woolley’s PeaceHealth United General Medical Center, a team of five cardiologists work to identify and treat issues regarding the heart, veins and arteries. Three more cardiologists work out of the Anacortes clinic.
Dr. Anthony Holmes is one of those cardiologists. New to the PeaceHealth network, he splits his time between PeaceHealth United General and PeaceHealth St. Joseph medical centers, and says both the primary care and cardiology expertise in the area is first rate.
PeaceHealth United General’s cardiology unit offers a robust array of diagnostic testing procedures, including stress tests, vascular ultrasounds, EKGs, echocardiography and a relatively new Technetium Pyrophosphate or PYP scan which detect abnormal proteins that are a common and treatable cause of heart failure in the elderly. Holmes says that some tests they offer aren’t offered even at large city hospitals making the close access to advanced cardiac diagnostic testing in Skagit and Whatcom counties very unique.
“We have the full gamut of non-invasive testing,” he says. “For a hospital this size, that’s pretty amazing.”
While invasive heart procedures – including those necessary for installing a pacemaker, performing a coronary angiogram, or other open-heart surgeries – still require a trip to Bellingham, post-operative rehabilitation can be done at PeaceHealth United General. Whatever your needs are – from physical therapy to medication management – PeaceHealth cardiology has the capacity to handle them closer to home.
Holmes points out that many cardiology patients he sees don’t require major surgeries.
“If you see 100 patients, maybe just 5 or 10 percent really have a need for some kind of surgical procedure,” he says. “For the remaining 90 percent, we manage their care with medication and lifestyle changes. They don’t have to take much time off work, and ongoing care is close to home and easier to fit into their schedule.”
In general, Holmes says the most common conditions cardiologists treat are blocked arteries due to coronary artery disease. This condition results in chest pain and other unwanted symptoms. Medication and stents are commonly used to open up the arteries and reduce plaque build-up.
Other common heart conditions seen in patients include slow heart rate (bradycardia), which can produce fatigue and shortness of breath. This condition is treated with a pacemaker. Heart valve disease, where a valve either pushes too much or not enough blood through the system, can be corrected with minimally invasive surgeries. And heart failure caused by a weakened heart muscle either from a prior heart attack, arrhythmias, or other health complications is also common.
Although some of these conditions are things patients can guard against, others are genetic or the result of aging. Still, there are basic things that can help your heart health.
Number one, Holmes says, is to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Walk or bike instead of taking a vehicle. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. At work, if you can, use a standing desk instead of sitting all day. If you can’t do that, hit the gym after work.
“Make sure you exert yourself,” he says. “I know it’s easier said than done, especially in the wintertime, but get as much activity as you can. That has significant, proven benefits of lowering your blood pressure, your blood glucose, and your bad cholesterol – your LDL. That’s huge.”
Regarding exercise, the American Heart Association recommends about 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, such as a light jog. Ideally, it’s broken up into 30-minute sessions, five days a week, but your lifestyle may vary that, of course.
In addition to avoiding smoking, Holmes also says to try eating a Mediterranean-style diet, which has proven to be helpful in lowering the risk of heart disease. Eat things rich in Omega 3s, extra virgin olive-based oils, plenty of salads and develop patterns of a balanced, portion-controlled diet.
“To have a healthy diet and an active lifestyle; that’s the best that you can probably do,” he says. “You can’t beat your genetics, unfortunately, and you can’t beat your age.”
Overall, Holmes says PeaceHealth United General has quickly established itself as a place for quality cardiovascular care, with eyes towards further expansion and growth. It all adds up to the best possible care close to home.