23 February 2023
Heart Month and Heart Health
February is Heart Month, raising awareness of heart health and the importance of learning CPR. We spoke to our Cardiologist in Gibraltar Dr Bernd Reisbeck to discuss how you can keep your heart healthy and take a proactive approach to heart health.
Thanks for speaking to us today Dr Reisbeck, can you tell us why you think it’s important to raise awareness of heart health with initiatives such as Heart Month?
It’s important because often people come when it’s too late, because they don’t pay attention to their body. They ignore the warning sings. Even those who do a lot of sport and lead a healthy lifestyle need to be aware of symptoms and consult a professional if any occur.
It’s also great that the British Heart Foundation are encouraging people to learn CPR this month. It’s so important to learn this skill, especially family members of someone who has already had a cardiac event. They have a free 15 minute online training course on how to do CPR on their website, and I would really encourage people to give it a try.
What should you do if you witness someone having a heart attack or think you are having one?
Call an ambulance stating that you think you or the person you are with is having a heart attack. Stay with the patient. Administer CPR if the patient suffers a cardiac arrest.
How do you know if you have a heart problem?
If you have an irregular heartbeat, are experiencing chest pain or shortness of breath, these may be indicative of a heart problem.
Other symptoms include epigastric pain/gastritis which, especially in women, can be the only presenting problem, with the pain actually being cardiac rather than coming from the stomach.
That said, 40% of patients who have acute heart attacks didn’t have any symptoms prior to the day it occurred.
Signs that you are having a heart attack include pain in the arms, in the chest or radiating to the back, pain in the neck and throat. Epigastric symptoms, gastritis, shortness of breath or fatigue can also be symptoms, especially in women.
What are the steps we can all take to have a healthy heart?
Stop smoking (or even better don’t start), eat a healthy diet, take regular exercise and avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Watch your weight and maintain your BMI within normal range. Learn more about the risk factors on the British Heart Foundation website and take steps to bring down cholesterol and blood pressure and control your diabetes.
Look out for any symptoms and don’t ignore them, even if you are healthy, make sure you see your doctor if they occur.
Should we all be having cardiac assessments?
Regular cardiac assessments are not recommended for everyone, they are not generally required if you lead a healthy, active lifestyle, have no family history and you are symptom free.
However, those who have an unhealthy lifestyle, especially those who smoke or who are obese, those with diabetes and those who are known to have pre-existing heart disease, as well as those with a family history of heart disease, should have a yearly check-up from around the age of 45-50 (or in the case of pre-existing disease, from the time this first presents).
What does a cardiac assessment entail and what can it reveal?
The first and main part of any cardiac assessment is the consultation to take the patient’s medical history. In some cases, this may be all that is required, as it may demonstrate that no cardiac investigations are warranted.
Depending on the history, other investigations can be carried out during the consultation including ECG, echocardiogram, stress test and 24-hour Holter ECG. Blood tests may also be requested. The results of these may indicate the need for further investigations including angiography and coronary artery CT.
The investigations can highlight problems including coronary artery narrowing, heart valve problems, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, fluid on the lungs etc.
If a cardiac assessment reveals that there is an issue, what are the treatment options?
Treatment depends on the condition diagnosed but can included lifestyle changes, medication, ablation, stent insertion, pacemaker or defibrillator implantation, or referral for surgery if required.
Meet the Expert
Dr Bernd Reisbeck is a Diagnostic and Interventional Cardiologist. He is highly experienced, having worked in the USA, Germany, Spain and Gibraltar.
Dr Reisbeck offers cardiac disease diagnostic services and works with patients to manage cardiac disease and its symptoms. Diagnostic services include cardiac stress testing, 24hr blood pressure and Holter investigation, Echocardiogram and Cardiac Imaging. He also performs interventional cardiovascular catheterisation, including stent insertion and ablation, at one of our sister hospitals in Spain.