Holy Name Medical Center Blog

Connecting with Your Heart

Posted by Michael Schwarz, MD
Cardiologist
Holy Name Medical Partners on September 29, 2021
Michael Schwarz, MD, Cardiologist

Many people have delayed in-person health appointments throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but now is the time to get back on track. Unless you have an active infection or suspect you have COVID, it is safe to return to your doctor’s office.

For many, telemedicine continues to play a limited role in assessing a patient’s complaints, however, I prefer to evaluate my patients in person. Human interaction is the cornerstone of the physician-patient relationship. We need to end the isolation, loneliness and depression brought on by the pandemic.

New Tech for Hearts

In-home technology, however, can play a role in providing vital information and monitoring cardiovascular health. Digital tools, such as phone apps and wearable smart watches and trackers, can help motivate and evaluate one’s personal health and wellness.

Digital apps that track sleep, fitness and eating also can provide important information to you and your doctor. These are tools that can make you more aware and enable you to take charge of health factors that you can control.

There are apps that can monitor your snoring, providing instant feedback as to whether you need to follow up with a doctor, sleep study or any remediation.

Wearable devices – some relatively affordable – can monitor your heart rate and provide an EKG, which could spare you an unnecessary trip to an emergency room or an urgent-care visit.

For $20 or less, patients can purchase a pulse oximeter – a simple device placed on a finger – that measures one’s pulse and checks how much oxygen is found in the blood. Blood pressure machines for home use are also relatively affordable and easy to use. Cuffs for the arm are better than those for the wrist.

Protecting Your Heart’s Health

Cardiovascular disease remains a leading cause of death in the U.S. and a contributing factor to many deaths from COVID-19. Patients can take an active role in improving their cardiovascular health with proper diet and exercise and addressing other lifestyle factors, such as avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol consumption.

The pandemic disrupted the exercise routines and eating habits of many. It’s time to reboot, to strengthen yourself and your immune system. I’m a proponent of functional fitness training, such as CrossFit®. We need to go beyond counting steps and start to repair and build strength, balance and flexibility.

Walking alone doesn’t help you lift your grandchild or help you get off the ground if you fall. Your fitness regimen should be designed to keep you limber and mobile. It’s also important to have structure and accountability for your fitness routine. Coach-led fitness classes help you build on your progress, so I believe these are better than working out on your own. And never let your routine lapse beyond four days. That’s the Schwarz rule!

Preventing Heart Disease Starts with Knowing Your Numbers

It is crucial for patients and doctors to look at the root causes of disease. The best way to treat heart disease is to prevent it. This starts with knowing your biometrics and your actual risks, and learning how to reverse them. A full medical exam and preventive work-up should go beyond basic cholesterol testing. There are many expanded biomarkers and inflammatory mediators that need to be looked at and treated.

We can’t change our age or our genetics, but we can control what we choose to eat and drink. We can control how we choose to stay active and fit. We can make an active decision to supplement with nutraceuticals, and we can decide how we want to age. Adult onset diabetes, for instance, can be reversed in most people through diet and exercise.

COVID-19 unmasked how sick we really are. The pandemic revealed health disparities and underlying medical conditions in many people. It let us know how vulnerable our immune system has become. Let’s work together to improve your overall health and wellness and in doing so protect your heart.

Michael Schwarz, MD, is a board-certified cardiologist who specializes in cardiology and internal medicine. His office is located at 1225 McBride Avenue in Woodland Park. His special interests include coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, and metabolic medicine He is also board-certified in anti-aging/integrative medicine and telomere science, which explores the genetic basis of aging. To schedule an appointment: 973-852-1353 or visit HolyNameMedicalPartners.org.