Healthy Hearts Make Happy Valentine’s Day

Feb 14, 2024

Valentine’s Day is a good time to remind ourselves that heart disease remains the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. However, it is important to remember that heart disease can be managed and, in some cases, prevented altogether. 

The traditional risk factors for heart disease – such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity – affect women and men equally. It’s an equal opportunity condition, which is why annual health check-ups and screenings are so important, according to Douglas Laidlaw, MD, Chief of the Division of Cardiology for Saint Vincent Hospital. 

The most common forms of heart disease are coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, heart valve disease and heart failure, explains Dr. Laidlaw. 

Coronary artery disease is a build-up of plaque that can decrease blood supply to the heart and may lead to a heart attack.  Some of the most common symptoms of a heart attack are chest pain/pressure, or pain that occurs in the shoulders, arms, back, jaw, or it may also mimic indigestion. The pain typically gets worse with activity and decreases at rest. 

Arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation (Afib), are abnormal heart rhythms that occur when the electrical impulses in the heart are not working correctly. Some common symptoms may include fluttering in the chest, palpitations, fatigue and dizziness. 

Heart valve disease is when one of the valves in the heart is not working correctly. Symptoms can include shortness of breath with activity, fatigue, swelling in the legs/feet, dizziness, or chest pain and a heart murmur is typically heard. Treatment options for valvular disease vary depending on the diagnosis, and may include minimally invasive Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) or open-heart surgery. 

Heart failure is when the heart cannot pump blood efficiently enough to meet the needs of the body. People may experience shortness of breath with activity, swelling in the legs/feet, rapid weight gain, and increased fatigue. Heart failure is usually treated with medication, or implantable cardiac devices. 

“Healthy lifestyle choices can make a big difference in maintaining a healthy heart,” says Dr. Laidlaw. “Stay active and try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week. Follow a healthy diet with more fruits and vegetables and less fast or processed foods, maintain a healthy weight, try to manage your stress, quit smoking, and get regular health screenings and physicals. A little extra effort today can go a long way in preventing heart disease tomorrow.” 

The good news is that there are many treatment options for heart disease that not only allow patients to live longer, but also improve their quality of life. Being proactive about your heart health can help you enjoy time with your Valentine year after year. 

For more information about cardiovascular services offered at Saint Vincent Hospital, visit Also, sign up for handy heart-smart information for a chance to win a smart tablet and download a heart-healthy snack booklet! To take a free online heart health assessment, visit

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