Every February we’re reminded of our hearts. From chocolate-filled candies and roses of red, Valentine’s Day observances and National Heart Month remind us of the important role our hearts play in our lives, emotionally and physically. But for Inova Alexandria Hospital’s Chief of Cardiac Surgery Dr. Linda Bogar, matters of the heart are a passion she shares with our patients every day of the year.
“There is nothing more exciting than seeing a heart beat in front of you,” says Dr. Bogar, a board-certified thoracic surgeon. She first felt that excitement in high school after volunteering at a local hospital. That experience sealed the deal on a future in medicine, prompting her to leave behind her original dream of becoming a Radio City Music Hall Rockette! “I realized I couldn’t sing and Broadway wasn’t going to be an option,” she said, adding, “My personality is better suited for surgery.”
Since then, Dr. Bogar has dedicated herself to mending damaged hearts and educating others about lifestyle changes that promote heart health. Yet even after 13 years in practice, there remain many more hearts to heal. Today, nearly 84 million Americans live with some form of cardiovascular disease or the after-effects of stroke, according to the American Heart Association.
Indeed, heart disease is a killer. It accounts for one out of every six U.S. deaths. Yet, Dr. Bogar says there’s much you can do to reduce your risk and prolong your life, including:
Get fit - Set a goal to lose those extra pounds that are putting an extra strain on your heart. Regular exercise can also help lower blood pressure and reduce the amount of artery-clogging fat in your blood.
Eat right - Commit to a heart-healthy diet. Choose foods that are low in animal fats. Avoid high-sodium foods, which make your body retain fluid and your heart work harder. Consume more fruits and vegetables.
Quit smoking - Smokers have twice the risk of non-smokers of getting heart disease. Nicotine narrows your blood vessels, making your heart work harder to get oxygen-rich blood. Commit to quit.
Lower your blood pressure - Watch your numbers. The harder your heart works to pump blood, the greater your risk of heart attack. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and being smoke-free helps your heart beat more efficiently.
She’ll share these and more tips about Staying Heart Healthy, including treatment options, in a free seminar at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 24, at the Beatley Library at 5005 Duke St. in Alexandria. Bring your questions and get advice about changes you can make to show your heart some love. Register at inova.org/asktheexpert or call 1-855-MyInova.
For additional heart information and a free heart disease risk assessment, go to inova.org/heart.