Special to Iredell Free News
When you imagine the role of your primary care provider, you likely think of them as your go-to for everyday health needs like treatment of common colds, vaccinations, and annual check-ups. However, your primary care provider (PCP) is also your first line of defense against serious illnesses and chronic conditions like heart disease.
Your heart is at the core of your wellbeing, and ensuring its health is crucial for a long and vibrant life.
While many may associate heart health solely with cardiologists, your PCP also plays an essential role in your cardiac care by determining your risk for cardiovascular disease and guiding you in ways to prevent heart disease.
February is American Heart Month, the perfect time to speak to your PCP about your heart health.
If you believe you are having signs of a heart issue, you can count on your PCP to listen to your concerns and offer advice.
“Your primary care provider is often the person who sees you most and typically the first person you might speak to regarding symptoms that could be cardiac-related. They can help guide an evaluation if your symptoms are likely heart related or if they are more likely related to other issues,” said Dr. Christian Sorensen, physician at Iredell Family Medicine.
They are trained to recognize the early signs of heart disease, and through routine exams and screenings, they can identify warning signs that may indicate an underlying problem. Early detection allows for timely intervention and treatment.
“While chest pain and intolerance to exertion along with other possible symptoms are alarming, they are not always cardiac in origin and there are many factors and symptoms that need to be considered prior to a referral to a cardiologist. Similarly, there are subtle symptoms of heart disease that a patient might be attributing to something else, and your PCP can help identify them and initiate a work up or referral to a cardiologist, if needed,” he added.
Your PCP can also help you assess your risk for cardiovascular disease. Several health conditions, your lifestyle, your age, and family history can increase your risk for heart disease.
Some common risk factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, poor diet, and obesity.
Fortunately, your PCP can help you avoid or manage conditions and risks that contribute to heart disease.
Monitoring Blood Pressure
“Elevated blood pressure often occurs without symptoms but can have a strong impact on your risk of developing heart disease, as well as many other conditions,” said Sorensen. “Your PCP will monitor your blood pressure at each visit and discuss medications or lifestyle changes to improve it.”
Sorensen also recommends having a blood pressure cuff at home that has been checked by your doctor. That way you can monitor your blood pressure in an environment that may be less stressful than a doctor’s office.
Forming a Heart-Healthy Diet
Your PCP can help you form a heart-healthy diet by recommending which foods to eat more of and which foods to limit.
“Your primary care provider can help you identify and manage risk factors and discuss diets lower in salt, dietary fats, and carbohydrates to help decrease the risk of developing comorbidities,” said Sorensen.
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy, fatlike substance found in every body cell in the bloodstream. It helps to form cell membranes and some important hormones and helps the body digest and absorb fat. High levels of blood cholesterol, though, are a major risk factor for heart disease.
When cholesterol builds up on artery walls, it makes arteries narrower and stiffer, making it more difficult for blood to get through. Narrowed arteries can block blood flow to the heart entirely, causing a heart attack.
“Your primary care provider can periodically check your lipid panel and based on the results, can recommend dietary changes, lifestyle modifications, and prescribe medications,” said Sorensen.
Encouraging a Healthy Weight
“Obesity is associated with a greatly increased incidence of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, sedentary lifestyle, and diabetes — which all increase the risk of heart disease,” said Sorensen.
Maintaining a healthy weight is integral to heart health, and your PCP can be your partner in achieving it.
“Sometimes, a person’s weight gradually creeps upward in their day-to-day life, and they may not notice. By coming in and being weighed as part of each encounter, we can track this together and discuss methods to maintain an ideal weight,” said Sorensen.
Referring You to a Cardiologist
If you do have a heart issue that requires additional care, your PCP can refer you to a cardiologist.
“You, your cardiologist, and your primary care provider all work together to ensure the best level of care for the prevention and treatment of heart disease,” said Sorensen.
Dr. Sorensen practices at Iredell Family Medicine, located at 544 Brawley School Road in Mooresville, and is accepting new patients. If you would like to schedule an appointment, call the office at 704-360 5190.
About Iredell Health System
Iredell Health System includes Iredell Memorial Hospital; Iredell Mooresville; two urgent care centers; Iredell Home Health; Iredell Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center; Community and Corporate Wellness; Occupational Medicine; the Iredell Physician Network and more. Iredell Memorial Hospital is the largest and only nonprofit hospital in Iredell County. The comprehensive healthcare facility has 247 beds; more than 1,800 employees; and has 260 physicians representing various specialties. Centers of excellence include Women’s and Children’s; Cardiovascular; Cancer; Surgical Services and Wellness & Prevention. The Health System’s second campus, Iredell Mooresville, is home to the area’s only 24-hour urgent care facility, as well as an ambulatory surgery center, imaging center, rehabilitation services, and physician practices. The mission of Iredell Health System is to inspire wellbeing. For a comprehensive list of services and programs, visit www.iredellhealth.org.