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Make your Mardi Gras a Hearti Gras

Make your Mardi Gras a Hearti Gras

You may be familiar with celebrating Mardi Gras by lining the streets and waiting for floats to pass, throwing candy and beads. Because of the crowds of people, it can sometimes be challenging to walk down the street to meet friends and family, and the floats usually move at a slow-pace.

Imagine your arteries coming from your heart like a parade route, carrying blood throughout your body. When the accumulation of cholesterol and fatty deposits known as “plaque” build up along the edges of the artery, it leaves a narrow path for blood to flow freely. It becomes difficult for blood to travel from your heart throughout your body. This can eventually, when left untreated, lead to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and coronary artery disease. This restriction in blood flow to your body’s extremities (legs, feet, arms, hands, etc.), is called Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).

While lower-extremity PAD is more common (legs and feet), upper-extremity (arms, hands, fingers) still affects about 10% of the population. The most common symptoms of lower-extremity PAD are cramping, fatigue, aching, pain or discomfort when exerting oneself more than normal, for instance, climbing stairs or walking. The pain will usually subside after resting and returns when an activity begins again. If the blockage remains for a long period of time in the peripheral arteries the color of the skin may even change and total loss of blood circulation could mean having to amputate the limb in extreme cases.

Prevention, early diagnosis, and initiating treatment soon in managing this condition are key. While lifestyle changes, like increasing physical activity, healthy eating patterns, controlling your cholesterol, and lowering BMI can help improve conditions, along with medications, sometimes a cardiologist may recommend a procedure called an “angioplasty.” During this procedure a physician may inflate a small, medicated balloon in the artery to flatten the plaque along the walls of the artery. They may also insert a small mesh tube called a stent to keep the artery from narrowing again. Think of this as a barricade that’s placed to keep crowds from restricting traffic flow at a parade.

“Unfortunately, many people mistake the symptoms of PAD for something else and can go undiagnosed until the case is severe and greatly impacts one’s quality of life,” says Dr. Ahmad Awan, an interventional cardiologist with Lake Charles Memorial Health System. “The good news is that PAD is diagnosed in a simple and painless way. It’s my goal to help a patient manage PAD with lifestyle changes and medications before it gets too far.”

During American Heart Month, it’s a great time to reevaluate lifestyle choices and be aware of any risk factors that may lead to unfavorable heart conditions down the line. Risks are higher in individuals who have diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and those who smoke.

In Louisiana Mardi Gras is just one of many celebratory seasons. When it comes to celebrating, you want to feel your best. Don’t let your health prevent you from jumping for beads at the next parade. Let this Mardi Gras season be a heart healthy “Hearti Gras.”

To learn more about the Memorial's Hearti Gras celebration, click here!

Sources: American Heart Association