Be Your Own Valentine – Give Yourself a Healthy Heart


Three doctors from local hospitals talk about the importance of being heart healthy during this American Heart Month.

“Symptoms are not always the same for everyone,” said Dr. Daniel Goodwin, M.D., clinical cardiologist and medical director for echocardiography at Glendale Memorial Hospital.

For years the traditional description of heart attack symptoms was shooting pains down one or both arms and pressure in the chest.

“The people that wrote about [those symptoms] wrote them in the early part of the 20th century and only about men, that was a tragic mistake,” said Dr. Gerald Pohost, director of Cardiac Imaging Center at Glendale Adventist Medical Center.

The mistake comes from a section of the population that was not warned – women. According to the American Heart Association, “Heart disease is the number one cause of death among women 20 and older, killing one woman every minute.”

“Women can have the classic symptoms,” said Dr. Eric Lee, director of ICU [Intensive Care Unit] and staff cardiologist at Verdugo Hills Hospital.

However women can have symptoms that are very different from men.

“If [the woman] is tired all the time, fatigued during the day not when exercising and a shortness of breath,” Lee said of typical female symptoms.

“And a feeling of unwell,” Goodwin added. “In men it is not chest pain but in general the crushing chest pressure, shortness of breath and sweating. The pain may move from the arm to the jaw or back. Those are typical symptoms.”

“Many people think the [pressure] is on the left side but it is [generally] just beneath the breastbone,” said Pohost.

More than 82 million American adults are estimated to have one or more types of cardiovascular disease. That’s one in three people, according to the American Heart Association.

There are some cases when a seemingly perfectly healthy, fit person has a heart attack however normally heart disease doesn’t just happen without warning or without the victim living an unhealthy lifestyle.

“[Some] patients are still so shocked when [the heart attack] arrives,” Goodwin said. “It takes years and years to develop a problem.”

Patients should know their family history, especially if either parent or grandparents have had heart issues, particularly at an early age. For men a heart attack at an early age is under the age of mid-50s to early 60s; for women it is under the age of 65.

Diet is one of the most important factors in keeping a healthy heart, according to all three doctors.

Obesity is a problem in both the old and young, Lee said.

“I was glad to see video games like Xbox and Wii with dance games,” said Pohost. “Before kids would be playing video games while sitting on the sofa.”

Being physically active for both children and adults is key to maintaining a healthy heart. The heart association recommends having four and a half cups of fruits and vegetables daily, at least 3.5 ounce servings a week of fish, at least three one-ounce-equivalent servings a day of fiber-rich whole grains and no more than 450 calories (36 ounces) a week of sugar-sweetened beverages.

The other cause of heart disease is smoking.

“I do [a lot] of work in China. When you walk down the street in some of the cities in China you can smell the smoke not from the cars but from cigarettes,” Pohost said. “And now heart disease is increasing in China and India.”

Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising and not smoking are three things a young person can begin to do now to keep out of the emergency room with a heart disease.

“[Those] good habits are learned at home,” Goodwin said. “Take away the soda and video games. Get [children] involved in sports and physical activity. Eat a decent diet as opposed to fat and processed food. You won’t need to see a cardiologist if you change your lifestyle.”

But all three doctors advise not to hesitate if a person feels there is a heart issue. The technology is available to take a close look at the heart and evaluate any and all problems.

Magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] looks at the heart in a higher resolution and clearer image of how the blood is flowing, Pohost said.

The technology is constantly evolving with new ways of looking and evaluating the heart, Goodwin said.

Lee advised people who are concerned about a heart issue to contact their general doctor and tell him or her of their concerns. He admits that there may be some hurdles to go over with insurance but it is important to see a cardiologist before the person has a heart event.

To contact Dr. Eric Lee, call (818) 952-1426. His office is at 1808 Verdugo Blvd., Ste. 414. Verdugo Hills Hospital, 1812 Verdugo Blvd., (818) 790-7100.

To contact Dr. Gerald Pohost, call (310) 289-9955, Glendale Adventist Hospital, is at 1509 Wilson Terrace in Glendale.

To contact Dr. Daniel Goodwin call (818) 242-8816. His office is at 1510 S. Central Avenue. Glendale Memorial Hospital is located at 1420 So. Central Ave., 91204, (818) 502-1900.