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Berks cardiologists weigh in on keeping your heart healthy

Excerpt from Reading Eagle story by Matthew Nojiri

February is American Heart Month, and it puts the spotlight on an important issue. About 34 percent of American adults have high blood pressure, and heart disease accounts for one in seven deaths, according to the American Heart Association.

Dr. Andrew Waxler, a cardiologist with Berks Cardiologists Ltd., Wyomissing, discussed heart disease and the ways to live a healthy life.

About heart disease

Coronary artery disease is the biggest heart issue, Waxler said.

The buildup of plaque and the hardening of the arteries around the heart can be an insidious problem as artery disease doesn’t always come with symptoms,” said Waxler, who also serves as president of the Berks County Medical Society. “Coronary artery disease is incredibly common.

“We’ve known the process of arteriosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries, starts early. People get to my age, 50, and they have a heart attack, but the process has been going on for years.”

Coronary artery disease makes up about 45 percent of all cardiovascular disease, but some people don’t know it’s an issue until later in life.

“In some people, their first warning is a heart attack,” Waxler said. Others will notice tightness or pressure in the middle of the chest or shortness of breath from doing everyday tasks, Waxler said. “I never ask about chest pain,” he said. “It’s about tightness, pressure and discomfort.”

Preventive steps

Some aspects of health cannot be changed.

Family history and genetics fall into that category. Ethnicity is another. Those factors can make you more likely to suffer from heart disease. Still, there are things that are within your reach. For one, you can decide to quit smoking, Waxler said.

“The whole world knows smoking can cause emphysema and lung cancer,” he said. “I don’t think the American public knows how detrimental it is to the heart. It causes injury to the lining of heart arteries, which promotes more blockages. It also causes constriction of blood vessels, which can lead to a heart attack.”

Penn State Health St. Josephs Heart Institute and Emergency Department
have demonstrated expertise and commitment to quality patient care by meeting American Heart Association’s stringent criteria as a Heart Attack Receiving Center. If you’re having chest pain or other heart attack symptoms, call 9-1-1 and seek medical attention immediately. Any other questions, contact The Heart Institute at 610-378-2340.

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