Healthy Hearts Make Happy Valentine’s Day

Feb 13, 2024

Valentine’s Day is a good time to remind ourselves that while heart disease is still prevalent in American men and women, it can be managed and in some cases, prevented altogether. 

The traditional risk factors for heart disease – such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, family history and smoking – affect women and men equally. It’s an equal opportunity condition, which is why annual health check-ups and screenings are so important, according to Christopher Gange, MD, cardiologist on the medical staff at MetroWest Medical Center. 

Some of the most common forms of heart disease are coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, heart valve disease and heart failure, explains Dr. Gange. 

Coronary artery disease is a build-up of plaque that can decrease blood supply to the heart and may lead to a heart attack.  Some of the most common symptoms of a heart attack are chest pain/pressure, or pain that occurs in the shoulders, arms, back, jaw, or it may also mimic indigestion. The pain worsens with activity and subsides with rest. 

Arrhythmias are abnormal heart rhythms with atrial fibrillation being the most common one. Symptoms include fluttering in the chest (palpitations), shortness of breath, fatigue and dizziness. Atrial fibrillation is also a leading cause of stroke.

Valvular disease is due to one of the heart valves not opening well and/or leaking blood when it closes. Symptoms can include shortness of breath with activity, fatigue, swelling in the legs/feet, dizziness, or chest pain. A heart murmur is typically heard on a physical exam and the diagnosis is confirmed with a heart ultrasound (echocardiogram). Treatment options for valvular disease include open heart surgery to replace the valve or sometimes a minimally invasive procedure Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR). 

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is when the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the demands of the body. People may experience shortness of breath with activity, swelling in the legs, weight gain, and increased fatigue. CHF can be successfully treated with medications and sometimes implanted cardiac devices (pacemakers or defibrillators). 

“Healthy lifestyle choices can make a world of difference for healthy hearts,” says Dr. Gange. “Stay active and try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week. Follow a healthy diet with more fruits and vegetables and less sugar, carbohydrates or processed foods. Aim to maintain a healthy weight, stop smoking and make sure your risk factors are well controlled by seeing your doctor regularly.” 

The good news is that there are many treatment options for heart disease that not only allow patients to live longer, but also improve their quality of life. Being proactive about your health can help you enjoy time with your Valentine year after year. 

For more information about cardiovascular services offered at MetroWest Medical Center, visit Also, sign up for handy heart-smart information for a chance to win a smart tablet and download a heart-healthy snack booklet! To take a free online heart health assessment, visit

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