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Work with a skilled Virginia Hospital Center physician who stay up-to-date on the latest, most effective treatments available. Search online for a cardiovascular specialist.

Heart Health Tips

Older couple stretching before a run

Count on the cardiologists at Virginia Hospital Center for the education, guidance and medical care you need to protect and improve your health.

Know Your Family History

If you have a family member who had heart problems later in life, that does not necessarily mean you’re at higher risk for a heart condition yourself. But if you have an immediate family member—such as a parent or sibling—who had a heart attack, other heart disease or heart surgery before age 55, you may have a higher risk of having a heart problem.

“The most important thing, if you have a family history of heart disease, is to address it early — in your 20s and 30s,” says Hassan Tabandeh, MD, FACC, RPVI. “Although people with a family history of coronary disease are at higher risk, you can take steps to dramatically reduce that risk. By addressing it when you’re young, adopting a healthy lifestyle, exercising, watching your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol, that’s how you can do the most good for your heart and yourself.”

Take Control of Your Health

Talk to your Virginia Hospital Center primary care provider about your family and personal health history, as well as your risk factors.

Exercise for a Stronger Heart

You do not have to do intense, strenuous exercise every day to benefit your heart health. Most doctors recommend 30 minutes of moderate activity five times a week. Moderate activity means you breathe harder than usual but can still talk. Examples of moderate activity include yoga, brisk walking, bicycling at 10 miles per hour, gardening and ballroom or line dancing.

“The important thing is to start developing good habits,” says R. Preston Perrin, MD, FACC, FSCAI. “To make something a habit, you have to do it consistently for many days in a row. To start your exercise habit, commit to exercising for two weeks. If you can’t do 30 minutes each day, do 15 minutes and build up from there.

“Even if you are a total couch potato, you can start low and go slow. You just have to build from whatever base you have. By being intentional about exercise every day, you will create a pattern that will become a heart healthy habit.”

How to Get Started

Your doctor can help you create an exercise plan that works for you. Choose activities you enjoy.

Know the Signs of a Heart Problem

Educate yourself about common symptoms of a heart problem, and get help from a qualified medical provider if you experience them. Symptoms may include:

  • Chest pain (angina) or discomfort
  • Chest palpitations and fluttering
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting
  • Heartbeat that’s irregular, too fast or too slow
  • Numbness, coldness or weakness in the legs or arms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the legs or feet
  • Tiredness

“Many symptoms of heart problems come and go, such as heart palpitations and chest pain,” says Eric Thorn, MD, FACC. “While they can represent serious problems, in most cases they don’t. Nevertheless, my general advice is if you feel something you haven’t had before, or if something is persisting more than a few seconds, it makes sense to get it checked out.”

Diagnostic Testing

Virginia Hospital Center offers a wide range of diagnostic tools, such as echocardiograms, treadmill stress tests and heart monitors, to rule out or detect heart problems.

“That gives us a better chance of catching something that is only occurring every couple of days or every week,” says Dr. Thorn. “When symptoms arise, we want to identify the cause quickly, so we can provide the best possible care for your long-term health.”

Take Medications as Directed

Managing any conditions you may have—such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol—helps prevent serious complications like heart attack or stroke. Always take medications exactly as your doctor recommends, and do not stop taking them without talking to your physician first.

“I have a lot of patients who are skeptical of some of the best medical therapies we prescribe, such as statins to control cholesterol and blood thinners for atrial fibrillation to protect against a stroke,” says Jeremy Bock, MD, FACC. “Many have read highly provocative stories in nonscientific magazines or on the Internet that cause them to question our recommendations.

“I try to show them the facts. For example, it’s a fact that blood thinners we prescribe for appropriate patients reduce stroke risk by 70%. Statins have a central role in limiting the progression of atherosclerotic vascular disease, which is a top cause of death in the U.S.”

Support & Guidance

Feel comfortable asking your Virginia Hospital Center doctors questions. Depend on your physicians to listen and provide the education you need to take an active role in your health.

“When I prescribe a new medication, I explain what it does,” says Dr. Bock. “It’s part of my job to establish trust, so my patient does not feel anxiety regarding my recommendations. I don’t take prescribing medication lightly. In the end, it all comes down to one goal — giving my patients the best possible outcomes.”

“That gives us a better chance of catching something that is only occurring every couple of days or every week,” says Dr. Thorn. “When symptoms arise, we want to identify the cause quickly, so we can provide the best possible care for your long-term health.”

Related Locations

  • Main Hospital
    Main Hospital

    703-558-5000

    1701 N George Mason Drive
    Arlington, VA 22205