Chelsea Physician Discusses Cardiovascular Care During Heart Health Month
Kathryn Harmes, MD, MHSA, FAAFP is a board-certified primary care physician for Trinity Health Michigan/IHA Medical Group in Chelsea. With February being Heart Health Month, she spoke with the Sun Times News to discuss signs and symptoms of an unhealthy heart, and ways people can begin to improve their overall heart health.
STN: Let’s get right to it. What are some common signs and symptoms of heart issues?
Dr. Harmes: Chest pain is a concerning symptom, so it is always good to get that evaluated. Chest pain doesn’t always equate to heart problems, but it should be addressed because of how serious the health implications may be.
Other symptoms can include chest pressure, shortness of breath, profusely sweating, or a sudden decrease in exercise endurance. If you are dealing with any of those symptoms and they are not going away, I urge you get it checked out immediately.
STN: How much more likely is someone to develop heart disease if it runs in the family?
Dr. Harmes: Family history can make a difference, but it depends on the age of the family member. If they are diagnosed at a young age, that could increase your risk.
There is a tool we use that looks at risk factors such as cholesterol levels, history of high blood pressure and diabetes, and if you smoke tobacco. We can then calculate the estimated risk of you having an event like a heart attack or stroke within the next 10 years.
STN: How much of a difference is there between women and men when it comes to heart health?
Dr. Harmes: It has been proven that men are more likely to have heart issues than women. A study conducted by Harvard showed men are two times more likely to have a heart attack than women. However, both men and women should be careful since heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death for both men and women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The truth is, anyone can develop heart issues.
STN: Fitness tracking is popular, but how much of an impact can fitness trackers have on heart health?
Dr. Harmes: I don’t endorse any particular product, but wrist watches that monitor heart rates can provide useful information. I’ve seen patients with irregular heart rhythms that were caught by their health watch so if patients have those devices, they should discuss abnormal results with their primary care physician.
STN: We’ve heard it in ads and newsclips, but let’s hear it from someone who works with heart health daily. How can people best avoid heart problems?
Dr. Harmes: It’s helpful to support a healthy lifestyle, including exercising and healthy eating. Getting into a good exercise regimen — whether it’s walking, running, or even participating in organized activities — can establish a successful path to a healthy heart and a healthy life.
Eating a mix of fruits, vegetables and fibers, as well as limiting sodium, processed foods and saturated fats is also beneficial.
Finally, avoiding unhealthy substances such as tobacco and alcohol plays a huge role in ensuring a healthy heart.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Harmes, please call 734-475-8677. And if you are looking for a cardiologist, you can reach Trinity Health Michigan Heart - Chelsea at 734-712-8000.