LOGO 2019

This Valentine's Day, Make Time for Your Heart Health

By Kristy Warren

Come Valentine's Day, we're thinking with our hearts, but it's also a great time to think about our hearts. February marks American Heart Month, which is aimed at raising awareness around heart disease. Your heart pumps approximately 2,000 gallons of blood every day and beats an average of 2.5 billion times over your lifetime, which means keeping your heart in tip-top shape plays a big part in your overall health.


Angela Dixon, CRNP, Laurel Health Centers

Angela Dixon, a certified registered nurse practitioner (CRNP) with the Laurel Health Centers, walks us through the important role your family history and healthcare provider play in knowing your heart risks, including the subtle signs that something could be wrong, the difference in heart attack symptoms between women and men, and the steps you can take today to boost your heart health. 

We tend to think of cancer when we think of leading causes of death, but heart disease is responsible for one in every four deaths in the United States. It is the leading killer of both American men and women. Read on to learn how you can combat heart disease for a stronger, healthier heart. 



Heart disease can be particularly deadly for women, who often experience atypical symptoms and may put off seeking treatment because their warning signs are vaguer and it's harder to pin down what feels wrong. Women should monitor for more subtle changes in their body, including fatigue, indigestion / heartburn, and shoulder, jaw, or back pain—all of which can be signs of a serious heart problem.


If you are “feeling off” and aren’t sure why, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and call your healthcare provider to get checked out. If something feels wrong, don't wait. Make an appointment with your family medicine provider to discuss your concerns. They can pinpoint the problem and take steps to treat it quickly.




When we think of heart trouble, we often think of heart attacks. When we picture heart attacks, we tend to think of older adults suddenly suffering crushing chest pain or numbness shooting down their left arm. In reality, the warning signs can be much more subtle and heart attacks can be expressed through other symptoms. What's more, heart events are affecting more people at a younger age.


Men are more likely to suffer chest pains and numbness; women are more likely to suffer referred pain in their shoulder, jaw, or back.


Women should be alert to more subtle changes in their body, as heart-related symptoms do not often present in the same way as they do in men. Be alert for increased fatigue, more frequent or “different” indigestion / heartburn, and new shoulder, jaw, or back pain—all of which can be signs of a serious heart problem.


Pay attention to changes in your body and seek professional advice quickly if something doesn’t feel right, even if you think it may turn out to be nothing. It’s always better to know.



Talk about heart health with your family. Ask if there is a history of any heart disease, defects, surgeries, or trouble in your family and discuss that heart history with your family medicine provider.


The more family history you're able to gather, the more complete a picture you can paint for your healthcare team. This history helps your provider better evaluate your personal risk for developing heart disease or suffering a heart attack.

Woman holding stylized heart for American Heart Month



Our busy lives often get in the way of focusing on our heart health, and it’s human nature to put off something that seems too daunting or hard to think about. Don’t wait! Improving your heart health doesn’t have to be hard or complicated.


Here are some simple steps you can take TODAY to improve your heart health:


  • Plan ahead: Make a healthy meal plan before hitting the grocery to help you steer clear of junk food and focus on healthy proteins and produce.

  • Tweak your diet: Lower fat, cholesterol, and sodium; eat more fiber, fruits, and veggies!

  • Watch your numbers: Get an annual checkup every year and opt for preventive screenings like blood pressure checks and blood tests to monitor your numbers. Keep an eye on your cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides, as they tell you a lot about your heart health.

  • Lower stress: Stress is a dangerous strain on the heart. Whether it’s meditation, reading, singing, your favorite sitcom, or a soak in the tub, make time to unwind from the everyday hustle-and-bustle with something that relaxes you.

  • Stay hydrated: Proper hydration makes your blood much easier to circulate. It also helps remove waste and has the added benefit of cushioning your joints, which makes heart-healthy exercise easier.

  • Get moving: Talk to your family doctor about building a heart healthy exercise routine that safely raises your heart rate. If you can’t fit a 30+ minute block of exercise into your schedule, try smaller snippets of 10 - 15 minutes throughout the day. To easily add more movement to your day, take the stairs, park a little further away from the store, or take your pets for a walk.

February may be home to Valentine's Day and American Heart Month, but keeping your heart healthy should be a focus year-round. Talk to your family doctor about your heart health today.

Need an appointment? The Laurel Health Centers have you covered, offering award-winning care for the whole family throughout Tioga County, including Blossburg, Mansfield, Lawrenceville, Westfield, Elkland, and Wellsboro, PA. Call the Laurel Health Centers at 1-833-LAURELHC (1-833-528-7354) to select the center of your choice or visit our contact page


To make an appointment with our featured expert, Angela Dixon, CRNP, call the Mansfield LHC at 570-662-2002For more heart health tips, stay tuned to our health and wellness news!