Take Charge of Your Heart Health



While you can’t change your family history of heart disease, there is still a lot you can do to lower your risk of developing cardiovascular problems.

“The first step to take control of your heart health is to contact your primary care physician,” says Dr. Stephen Fedec, a board-certified cardiologist at Beaufort Memorial Heart Specialists in Okatie and Beaufort. “Determine if you have risk factors for heart disease. If you do, make necessary lifestyle modifications to reduce that risk.”

Once you know your risk factors, there are steps you can take to reduce or eliminate them:


Focusing on fresh, whole foods helps lower your chances of developing two major heart disease risk factors — being overweight and having high blood pressure.

“The best daily diet for a healthy heart includes fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean sources of protein like beans, fish and poultry, whole grains, and healthy, unsaturated fats,” Fedec said. “Avoid sodium, sugar, and saturated and trans fats,”

Fedec recommends the Mediterranean diet — which includes vegetables, fish and poultry — to all of his patients.

“It’s the only diet that’s proven to reduce risk of stroke and heart attack,” he said.


Exercise may be the “magic pill” that keeps your heart healthy — it helps keep cholesterol and blood pressure in healthy ranges, and it lowers your risk for heart disease and stroke.

If you need some ideas, start by walking, then add some variety with activities such as running, biking, dancing, kickboxing, water aerobics and swimming — anything that keeps you engaged and moving.

“The best exercise is one you enjoy and will do for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week,” said Fedec.


Research hasn’t found a lot of support for the idea that vitamins prevent heart disease. However, according to the American Heart Association, there is some evidence that vitamin D might help lower the risk of heart failure.

Vitamin D is a nutrient your body makes from sunlight but one you can also get from foods, including eggs and fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines. But many people aren’t able to meet their needs through food and sunlight alone.

“If you’re concerned about heart failure, talk to your doctor about taking a supplement,” said Fedec.


Symptoms of heart disease are not always apparent. They may not reveal themselves at all until you have a heart attack. While most people are aware that signs could include chest and arm pain and shortness of breath, they can also cause indigestion, nausea, fatigue and dizziness.

“All too frequently people feel they are slowing down just because they are getting older, said Fedec. “That might very well be the case, but often it is also a manifestation or symptom of heart disease.”

So, if you have a family history other risk factors, or have any of the above symptoms, see your provider to address these issues.

“We have many treatment options that weren’t available before,” Dr. Fedec says. “While it’s best to prevent heart disease from setting in, when that’s impossible, we can help manage it so people can return to life.”