The Valentines holiday has us thinking of red paper hearts and chocolate hearts, but it’s also a good time to reflect on our heart health.

Heart disease remains the number one killer of men and women in America. Yet, a healthy heart is more than just the prevention of disease and death. A healthy heart leads to a vibrant fulfilled and sustainable lifestyle. From the boardroom to the bedroom, a healthy heart is critical to help us achieve our fullest potential. Whether your game is golf, tennis, or bridge, a healthy heart offers you the opportunity to be your best. Planning that first marathon or chasing grandchildren, your heart health is critical for the task.

Heart health is not complicated. Start with a complete heart evaluation by your primary physician or cardiologist. Ask for a baseline EKG, cardiac stress test, full lipid panel, and a cardiac / calcium score. Calcium score, though not covered by most insurance plans, is an inexpensive way to measure the calcified plaque in your heart. Another more specialized test to measure not only heart health, but overall physical conditioning, is a Cardio Pulmonary Exercise Test or CPET.

This complex test measures oxygen consummation at maximum exercise to accurately assess cardio pulmonary conditioning. Professional and Olympic athletes are routinely tested by CPET to monitor progress in their training. This complete cardiac evaluation is a great baseline to establish at any age, but certainly by age 40.

This baseline battery of tests can be obtained at Medical Associates of North Georgia in conjunction with Northside Hospital. These services can be easily scheduled by calling 770-479- 5535.North_Georgia_Medical_10

You can’t talk heart health without a discussion about cholesterol. A very complex issue, Cholesterol is related to lifestyle and genetics. Just because your cholesterol is high doesn’t mean you have to jump on the “statin band wagon.” Statin is a drug used to lower cholesterol levels by inhibiting a specific enzyme. Supplements such as CoQ10, red yeast, fish oil, and lifestyle changes may lower your cholesterol. A stress test, CPET, calcium score, and a full family history review should be used to assess and stratify your level of risk. Before you commit to a lifelong use of a statin, get a complete baseline cardiac evaluation.

Lifestyle changes are primarily diet exercise and weight control. Dietary changes should be simple. Control portion size, eat more vegetables and fruit, more fiber and whole grains. Choose low fat protein sources such as fish, chicken, beans, peas and lentils. Watch your salt intake. Plan your heart healthy menus in advance. On occasion, reward yourself with a treat for your efforts such as a Valentine’s chocolate heart!


Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise four times a week that gets your heart rate into the heart healthy zone is a simple place to start. Take 220 minus your age and multiply that number by 60% and 80% — that is your heart healthy zone. You can walk, run, bike, treadmill or any other aerobic activity that keeps your pulse in your zone for thirty minutes.

Maintain a heart healthy weight. If you are following a dietary and exercise program this should not be hard. Your weight should be realistic. Here is a great formula to determine a realistic weight goal.

For men give yourself 106 lbs. for five feet and 6 lbs. for every inch above five feet plus 15 % of the total. So a 5’ 10’”man should weigh 190 lbs. For women give yourself 105 lbs. for 5’ and 5 lbs. for every inch above that plus 10% of the total. So 5’ 5” woman should weigh 143 lbs.

Heart health keep it simple sustainable and realistic. In conclusion:

  1. Get a baseline evaluation.
  2. Make necessary dietary changes.
  3. Formulate a heart healthy exercise program.
  4. Set a realistic weight goal.
  5. For the best results, keep it simple, sustainable, and realistic.
  6. The tools are simple. Empower yourself to take control of your heart health.

Dr William Early is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and a Diplomate in the American Society of Gastrointestinal  Endoscopy.  Dr. Early founded and is the managing partner of Medical  Associates, one of the largest and most renowned multi specialty centers in the state of Georgia. Dr. Early has received numerous accolades and many awards. Highlights would include being named Cherokee County’s Citizen of the Year and being recognized as one of the 30 most influential citizens of Cherokee County for the past century.