In observance of February as American Heart Month, Dr. Bianca Ummat of Baptist Health and Dr. Arpit Agrawal of Norton Healthcare shared with us their tips for the prevention of heart disease and some exciting advancements in the field of cardiology. Late-breaking news stories in heart health include results from recent studies suggesting that mortality rates from heart attack or stroke are actually rising in middle age, even in states such as Colorado that have a reputation for a relatively active and healthy lifestyle. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reporting an earlier, steeper rise in hypertension among women than men, despite the fact that on average women tend to develop heart disease as much as a decade later in life. Studies also indicate that cardiovascular screenings and risk assessments are more important than ever.
Dr. Bianca Ummat specializes in Cardiology with a clinical focus on Interventional Cardiology, including Cardiac Catheterization and Intervention via Radial/Femoral Approach, Coronary Artery Disease, Percutaneous Coronary Intervention, Peripheral Arterial Disease, Prevention and Management of Cardiovascular Disease, and Pulmonary Embolism Intervention. Dr. Ummat received her medical degree from the University of Louisville School of Medicine and completed her residency and fellowships at George Washington University in Washington DC. She served with the Honduras Medical Mission in 2015 and 2016.
With regard to preventive heart health care, Dr. Ummat recommends an examination a patient’s cardiovascular risk factors. Research has shown that even in the face of some unchangeable risk factors like family history, we know that lifestyle changes including quitting smoking, regular exercise, reduced stress, improved sleep and a heart healthy diet can play a major role in reducing the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, and other major contributors to heart disease. Dr. Ummat finds this to be the biggest challenge in her work: conveying to patients the importance of lifestyle changes and teaching them the tools to achieve these goals. She tries to provide more accessible alternatives and encourages a day-by-day, step-by-step approach that succeeds through personal, family, and community commitment.
Through all the challenges, Dr. Ummat is inspired in her work by the opportunity to save lives: the personal satisfaction she feels when a patient says she has stopped smoking or lost weight is just as gratifying as stopping a heart attack in real time. She believes we are at a tipping point and are in need of major cultural change in terms of focusing on healthy living, and sees February as the perfect month to focus on heart health. The holidays have come and gone; and we all tend to fall off the wagon with New Year’s resolutions around this time of year. To recommit to those goals, she reminds us of two things, “Being healthy and taking care of yourself is something within your control, but takes commitment. Don’t ignore symptoms and be proactive about your health.”
In his practice with Norton Heart & Vascular Institute, Dr. Arpit Agrawal specializes in cardiac imaging, echocardiogram/CT/MRI, and structural and valvular heart disease. He is a native Louisvillian who attended Washington University in St. Louis for his undergraduate studies and returned to the University of Louisville for medical school. He then went back to Washington University for his residency, followed by a fellowship at Vanderbilt University. As an ardent Louisville Cardinals fan, “Cardiac Cards” means serious business for Dr. Agrawal.
Dr. Agrawal emphasizes knowing your family history and risk factors and what to do to prevent heart disease, such as weight loss, a healthy diet focused on moderation, lowering bad cholesterol, and at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. He even shared a tip for understanding how to gauge the effectiveness of your workout. During and after exercise, you should be able to speak at least three or four words at a time without needing to take a breath. He finds the advancements in percutaneous aortic valve replacement and MitraClip procedures most exciting in reducing the need for open heart surgery.
Sharing Dr. Ummat’s opinions on the challenges of helping people fully realize the importance of making necessary lifestyle changes and the inspiration of saving lives, Dr. Agrawal adds, “Helping a person feel better, live longer, live a more fulfilled life, and seeing that person change is so rewarding.” The advancements in cardiology of the last twenty to thirty years make this an exciting time to be in this field of medicine. He stresses that living a healthier lifestyle and being proactive versus reactive are the keys to good heart health.