Dr. Poongodhai Ramachandran, or “Dr. Ram,” as she is affectionately known, presented a Lunch and Learn seminar for Wadley Regional Medical Center at Hope at the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope Hempstead Hall on Monday.
Dr. Ram addressed a crowd of about 75 about the “Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.”
“This seminar is about heart disease prevention,” Dr. Ram said. “Heart and blood vessel disease is also called athersclerosis. That is a condition which develops when plaque builds up. Smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure all break down arteries, and plaque can either stay outside of the artery or it can go inside. When it goes inside, a clot can form, and when a clot hits your heart, it's known as a heart attack and when it hits your brain, it's called a stroke.
“Slow-growing cholesterol plaques can cause symptoms such as chest pain, also known as angina,” she said. “There are several risk factors for plaque build-up. One of the factors is age. Men who are 45 years of age older are at risk and women over the age of 55 are at risk. Smoking is also a factor as is elevated total or HDL cholesterol. More risk factors include hypertension, which is a blood pressure of 140/90 or higher.
“Low HDL, which is good cholesterol, is also a risk factor,” Dr. Ram said. “Anything below a 40 is considered low. A family history of premature heart disease will also raise your risks. If you have a male who is first degree related, who had a heart attack before age 55, and if you had a female first degree related who had a heart attack before age 65, you have a heart disease risk.”
Other risk factors include a high Body Mass Index (BMI), physical inactivity, and pyschosocial factors, including depression, hostility, and stress of everyday life. However, Dr. Ram addressed these issues.
“If we do 30 minutes of moderate activity four to five days a week, we will help ourselves reduce that risk,” she said.
The next segment that Ram spoke about was the issue of Women and Heart Disease.
“One in three women die of heart attacks, but only four percent fear dying of a heart attack. Contrast that with one in every 27 women die of breast cancer, and 40 percent of women have that fear,” she said.
Dr. Ram spoke of the saving graces of exercise next.
“Exercise reduces high blood pressure, which is a factor in heart disease,” she said. “If you can get a pedometer and can register 10,000 steps per day, you will have done your exercise for the day.
“You can split up your exercise, too,” Ram said. “You can take your dog for a walk and you can have a buddy go with you. That always passes the time and the exercise isn't so bad.
Page 2 of 2 - “Brisk walking is good for those without orthopedic issues, but if you have orthopedic issues, you can always swim. That's a great exercise.”
Another issue to address heart disease and preventing it is to eat a heart healthy diet, according to Ram.
“Eat less sodium and more potassium,” she said. “Not many people know that 80 percent of their sodium intake per day is not from the salt shaker, but from processed food. The recommended milligrams for sodium is 2,000 or less per day.
“Much has been said about drinking wine lately,” Ram said. “It is most usually known now that drinking one glass of wine a day if you're a woman and two glasses of wine a day if you're a man is acceptable.
“Another risk factor for heart disease is saturated fat,” she said. “Saturated fat comes from red meat, dairy products, and coconut and palm oils. We have to keep our eyes on portion sizes, including fats.
“Trans fat is found in deep fried foods, margarines, and anything that says on the label 'partially hydrogenated.'
“Instead, opt for Omega 3 fatty acids, which are included in salmon and mackerel,” Ram said. “Also, flax seed, walnut, soybean, and canola oil are good for you.”
Maintaining a healthy weight is another factor that Dr. Ram mentioned in preventing heart disease.
“Even losing 10 percent of your weight can increase your good results, including lowering your blood pressure,” she said. “Cutting calories promotes weight loss more than exercise. I know that really stunned some of you when I made that statement, but it is true. If you cut 500 calories from your diet each day, you'll lose about one pound a week.
“The combination of exercising and cutting down on what you eat is the best solution,” Ram said. “Also, you need to get regular health screenings and don't use tobacco. It's use can damage arteries and it makes the heart work harder by narrowing arteries. Carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in the blood and studies show that if you quit smoking, within a year, your whole system is healthier.”
Before Dr. Ram took the podium, nurses took cholesterol readings from attendees who wanted to know their cholesterol. They were to be notified within about a week with results. A luncheon of sandwiches and chips was served to attendees, and a question and answer session was opened after her seminar.
Dr. Ram promised that she would have these seminars continuing throughout the year and had a questionnaire for people to fill out on what they would like to hear as a seminar topic in the future.