Heart Care

Keeping Hearts Happy & Healthy For Years to Come

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States and a leading cause of death in Washington County. The most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease or CAD, caused by the narrowing of the coronary arteries due to plaque accumulation.

You can reduce your risk of heart disease by knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers and keeping them under control. Even if you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, you can successfully manage your condition with medications and lifestyle changes.

What is Heart Disease?

Heart disease refers to conditions that can affect how your heart works. Arteries supply blood to the heart muscle and brain. When there is a buildup of plaque containing cholesterol inside the artery walls, the arteries begin to narrow or become blocked resulting in a decrease in blood flow. This accumulation of plaque in the arteries can cause:

  • Heart attack. This condition occurs when blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot. The lack of blood flow or oxygen may cause part of the heart muscle to die.
  • Heart failure, or sometimes called congestive heart failure, means the heart is working, but it is not pumping enough blood to meet your body’s needs.

Symptoms of Heart Disease

Your physician may detect signs of heart disease before your symptoms occur; however, pay close attention to these warning signs:

Heart attack symptoms:

  • Chest pain or uncomfortable pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, throat or back
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating

Heart failure symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Chronic coughing or wheezing
  • Swelling of the abdomen, legs, ankles, and feet
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • High heart rate

Your chance of developing heart disease increases if you have some of the risk factors below:

  • Advancing age
  • Family history of heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Stress
  • Poor dental hygiene

Heart Services at Meritus Health

Heart disease is a common health condition within our community. At Meritus Medical Center, we offer medical and surgical treatments for the following heart conditions:

  • Arrhythmia - an abnormal heart rhythm that may cause problems with contractions of your heart chambers.
  • Atrial fibrillation - also known as AFib is a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.
  • Congestive heart failure - occurs when the heart is working, but it is not pumping enough blood to meet your body’s needs.
  • Coronary artery disease - occurs when a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries which supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle.
  • Heart attack - also known as myocardial infarction, occurs when blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot. The lack of blood flow or oxygen may cause part of the heart muscle to die

Living with Heart Disease


If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, you’ll have to make some changes to the way you eat. Eating a low-fat, low-sodium diet and adding heart-friendly foods such as fish, whole grains, nuts, beans and a variety of fruits and vegetables to your diet is a good place to start. To work essential foods into your diet, start with a heart-healthy shopping list.

A registered dietitian can also help you plan meals and make healthy food choices to lower cholesterol and reduce sodium in your diet.


You can help prevent and manage heart disease by regularly exercising. Exercise can strengthen heart function, improve circulation, lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol. Begin with 10 minutes of exercise daily and gradually work up to 30 minutes, five days a week. Physical activity may include:

  • A brisk walk
  • Swimming or water aerobics
  • Bicycling indoors or outdoors
  • Treadmill or elliptical training
  • Low-impact aerobics

Talk to your primary care provider before starting an exercise program. If you have suffered a heart attack or had coronary angioplasty or an open heart procedure, attend cardiac rehabilitation classes to learn more about exercise and heart disease.

Partnering with Providers

Your health is an ongoing commitment between you and your doctor. Get regular medical checkups and have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly. Follow these guidelines or those that you develop with your physician to manage your heart disease:

  • Control your blood pressure. Aim for less than 120/80 mm Hg.
  • Lower your cholesterol. Total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dL.
  • If you are diabetic, monitor your blood glucose level daily and aim for a hemoglobin A1c of 7 percent or less.
  • If you are overweight, work with your physician to achieve gradual weight loss through diet and exercise.
  • Don't smoke. If you smoke, sign up for a smoking cessation class.
  • Limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
  • Manage stress by incorporating deep breathing exercises, physical activity or meditation into your day.
  • Practice good dental hygiene by brushing your teeth daily and flossing regularly. See a dentist annually.


Heart Care