A big part of staying healthy overall is making sure your heart is taken care of. If your heart is looked after through a commitment to a low sodium, low fat diet and stimulated with enough invigorating exercise, you’ll feel the benefits throughout your entire body. Of course, it’s also important to have your physician check your blood pressure and cholesterol regularly, but what about other tests? To get a complete picture of your heart’s health and your potential risk for heart disease, UT Health has bundled seven tests together in the MyHeart First program.
MyHeart First is seven screenings done in one visit, for one price, that are proven to most accurately detect heart disease and defects. “Doing screening programs like MyHeart First, patients become proactive and show intent of taking care of their own health,” says Dr. Saima Zafar, cardiologist at UT Health East Texas Physicians in Athens. “The information we receive from tests, such as the calcium scoring CT scan, the cholesterol check and other studies, gives us a much clearer and objective perspective of future risk of heart disease and how to prevent it.” Getting this clear picture of the heart’s health can help prevent future heart attacks and strokes.
Dr. Zafar is one of the physicians that analyzes the results of these screenings to help recommend the best treatment. “I gather the information from the MyHeart First screenings candidates through learning about patients’ risk factors and labs, along with a calcium scoring CT scan and an EKG,” says Dr. Zafar. “By putting this information together I can discuss the risk of heart disease and educate them on ways they can lower the risk factors in order to become more heart healthy and avoid future heart problems.”
Dr. Zafar recommends that everyone over 50 take these screenings. This age is a guideline and can be earlier for patients who have a family history of heart disease or have had heart complications earlier in life. All tests are safe and noninvasive. On top of that, they can have a life-altering effect.
“I have had patients who have had markedly abnormal calcium scoring CT scans, which have led to earlier detection of blocked arteries around the heart, preventing a future heart attack,” says Dr. Zafar. “We were able to intervene and take care of the blockages in the arteries around the heart before anything catastrophic could occur.” Testing and seeing blockages is often the only way they can be detected, because they are often present with no symptoms.
Beyond going in for tests, the best thing you can do for your heart is to focus on a healthy diet. “It would be ideal if patients were more aware of their diet; knowing the calories they consume, as well as the salt and fat content of his/her diet. This would help them understand how to balance that diet and manage their weight and keep blood sugar and blood pressure under better control,” says Dr. Zafar. “Simple awareness of the blood pressure, routine exercise, diet and weight control will be the first step towards a healthy heart.”
Be proactive about your heart health and schedule a MyHeart First screening! To schedule an appointment at UT Health Tyler call 903-531-8000 option 1. For an appointment at UT Health Athens, call 903-676-2169.
Read Steve Skommesa’s story on how his MyHeart First screening ended up saving his life.
Saima Zafar, MD, MBA, is a board-certified cardiologist who sees patients at UT Health East Texas Physicians Athens. “I was always very fascinated with the heart and the many ways it can be impacted with different ailments, whether it is an abnormal heart rhythm, a blocked artery, weak heart muscle or malfunctioning valves. There is so much satisfaction in helping people with heart disease.”
Dr. Zafar has special interest in treating patients with hypertension, coronary artery disease, vascular heart disease and congestive heart failure, as well as treating women who have heart disease. To help prevent cardiovascular issues, Dr. Zafar suggests her patients eat healthy, exercise regularly, take prescribed medicine and to empower themselves by knowing their health stats, such as their blood pressure and controlling their weight.
She speaks English, Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi. Her personal interests include exercise, traveling and gardening.