www.montereycountyweekly.com FEBRUARY 22-28, 2023 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 7 ou see the guidelines constantly: eat a healthy diet, exercise, and do not smoke. But if you have a family history of heart disease, you may still be at risk despite living a healthy lifestyle. Heart disease is Monterey County’s second-leading cause of death, with coronary artery disease being the most common type of heart disease. Coronary artery disease occurs when plaque build-up restricts blood flow to the heart, which can result in symptoms including chest pain, shortness of breath, heart failure, and a heart attack. “Being aware of your family’s health history can be lifesaving,” says Dr. Michael Jesinger, a Montage Medical Group cardiologist. “Tell your doctor if a close family member had a heart attack or stroke, even if you feel healthy. It could significantly increase your risk.” Having a first-degree relative with heart disease — mom or sister younger than age 65, and dad or brother younger than age 55 — can increase heart disease risk by 50 percent. For patients aged 40–79, doctors can estimate cardiovascular risk by calculating age, gender, blood pressure, cholesterol, and smoking and diabetes status. If a potential risk is identified, other tests including a coronary calcium score, advanced cholesterol panels, and cardiac stress tests can further evaluate the patient’s risk. “Many patients I see don’t know that there is an affordable, simple screening test that can determine how likely they are to have a heart attack,” Jesinger says. That screening test is the coronary calcium score, which quantifies the amount of calcium plaques in the heart to determine the patient’s overall risk. “Once that risk is assessed,” Jesinger says, “we can work closely with patients to promote lifestyle changes and begin preventive medical therapies.” Jesinger’s heart-healthy recommendations include moderate exercise 30 minutes per day five days per week, eating a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits and vegetables with limited meat, and not smoking. But as Montage Medical Group clinical nutritionist and internal medicine doctor Sattar Hadi learned, heart disease can make its way into even the healthiest lifestyles. Hadi lives what he describes as an “ideal lifestyle for heart health.” But when he developed shortness of breath and chest pains after brief periods of exercise, he was surprised to learn that his heart’s main artery was 95 percent blocked — a blockage notorious for causing the widow-maker heart attack. “There were indicators in my family history that I missed,” Hadi says, “but since I exercise regularly, I saw the signs of my coronary artery disease. When you don’t exercise, you may not realize there’s a problem until it’s too late. Even a labor-intensive chore can trigger a heart attack. My case is a testament to healthy living and listening to your body.” High-quality care for better quality of life “I’m proud of Montage Health’s work with patients who have cardiovascular health problems,” Jesinger says. “We have two cardiopulmonary wellness centers, and that’s impressive for the size of our community. Participating in cardiac rehabilitation can decrease chance of death by up to 30 percent if you had a recent heart attack or heart surgery.” Montage Medical Group also offers innovative technology that continuously monitors higher-risk patients’ health and identifies potential care gaps so patients do not miss important screenings, medications, follow-ups, or adverse health developments. “Most heart attacks and strokes are preventable,” Jesinger says. “By knowing your family health history, seeing your doctor regularly, and practicing healthy lifestyle habits, you’re more likely to live a longer, higher-quality life.” Visit montagemedicalgroup.org to learn more about cardiology at Montage Medical Group or scan the QR code. American Heart Month: Heart disease tips from cardiologist Michael Jesinger, MD Y PAID ADVERTISEMENT “Many patients I see don’t know that there is an affordable, simple screening test that can determine how likely they are to have a heart attack.” — Dr. Michael Jesinger Montage Medical Group doctors: (from left) Sattar Hadi, MD, Michael Jesinger, MD