Making Sure the Beat Goes On

Making Sure the Beat Goes On

Humpty DumptyThe heart is the engine to your life, and without the proper maintenance, it can fail. A proper diet and a regular exercise program can decrease the risk of such a failure.

Many of us pledge to turn over a new leaf by exercising regularly and eating right.

Unfortunately, a vast percentage of us go-getters will fall back into our usual patterns and find ourselves prioritizing regular exercise AFTER having a good nap, reading a magazine, or watching our favorite TV show (which means it just does not get done).

Many people “talk the talk” about eating naturally, going organic, or avoiding processed foods, but do not “walk the walk.” In the end, the lack of time and convenience wins out and old habits such as consuming fast food return. The Super-Size-Me and Stuffed-Crust-Pizza era has taken its toll over the past few decades, and the American diet has taken a downturn in terms of healthy eating. As a nation, we have experienced a 32% weight gain in the past 10 years.

I would like to challenge everyone who has made the resolution to exercise and eat right to concentrate on their own heart-healthy report card and make it a priority to achieve an A+.

What Are the Risk Factors?

Each person has the ability to decrease their risk of cardiovascular disease by taking charge of their lifestyle. The primary risk factors for heart disease are family history of cardiac disease, elevated blood cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, cigarette smoking, and diabetes. All of these factors apply to men and women alike.

Although men and women share the risk of heart disease, women are often misdiagnosed secondary to their presentation. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of females in the U.S. It claims approximately 250,000 lives each year, and it kills twice as many women between the ages of 45 and 64 as breast cancer.

Many physicians have heard the description, “I feel like there is an elephant standing on my chest.” This one statement made by a patient alerts most physicians of a possible heart attack. However, women may instead complain of other symptoms, including vague chest pain, breathlessness, abdominal discomfort, back pain, dizziness, or acute fatigue; therefore, diagnosing the issue may not be so straightforward.

Many women want to dismiss their symptoms as a viral illness or heartburn because of their responsibilities at home or work. The treating physician also has the responsibility of not dismissing an obvious symptom of a possible heart attack.

What Can I Do?

It is very important to decrease your risk of heart disease, whether male or female, by eliminating your risk factors. Here are some important steps you can take:

  • Start a daily walking program
  • Quit smoking
  • Get regular check-ups with your physician


Another critical component is a heart-healthy diet. Make sure to eat lots of:

  • Foods that are rich in omega-3s
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Fish and chicken (limit your red meat intake)
  • Low glycemic foods


But it’s not just what you eat—it’s what you don’t eat, too. Avoid processed foods, and try your best to avoid trans fats (one easy way to do that is to cook with healthy oils like olive oil).

I challenge you to take control of your own health opposed to waiting for disease. You can make a difference in your future well-being.

If you have questions or would like to discuss any concerns you have regarding your health, you can schedule an appointment with me by calling 817-617-8650 or by scheduling online at continuumtx.com.

Mai Sharaf, MD, FACP

Internal Medicine

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