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Hospital's chief of cardiology: Diet, exercise key to healthy heart
Liberty Regional Medical Center’s Chief of Cardiology Dr. Bryan Ristow speaks to the Hinesville Rotary Club Tuesday. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
The Hinesville Rotary Club got a lesson in maintaining a healthy heart Tuesday, when Liberty Regional Medical Center’s Chief of Cardiology, Dr. Bryan Ristow, spoke in mostly laymen’s terms about reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Ristow got his job with LRMC in February, said LRMC CFO Sam Johnson.
“He went to a ‘little college’ in Princeton, N.J., for his undergraduate degree,” Johnson joked.
Ristow graduated from Princeton University in 1995 and attended the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, graduating in May 2001. He did his residency in internal medicine at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, from 2003-2006, according to Johnson. Ristow completed fellowships in echocardiography and cardiovascular diseases 2005-2009.
“Nearly one million Americans die each year from cardiovascular disease,” Ristow began.
The young cardiologist said heart disease afflicts both men and women, rich and poor, and young people, not just those older than 65.
Nearly 20 percent of the people who die from cardiovascular disease are younger than 65, he said.
The good news, Ristow said, is that the risk of heart disease can and has, been lowered in individuals who follow a combined regimen of a diet rich in Mediterranean style foods and at least 20 minutes of exercise three times a week.
“Cardiovascular disease is a disease of cholesterol,” he said.
If a person lowers their “bad” cholesterol, or LDL, and raises their “good” cholesterol, or HDL, with diet and exercise, they can lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke, according to Ristow.
The local cardiologist explained cholesterol is naturally found in the body. It is the balance of low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein that determine a person’s heart health, he said. IF LDL cholesterol builds up in the arteries, it can prevent blood from getting to the heart, Ristow said. HDL cholesterol helps carry LDL cholesterol away from the artery walls, he said.
People who have diets rich in fish, roasted vegetables, beans, fruits and nuts, such as the Japanese and Sardinians, fare better than their American counterparts, Ristow said. In addition, coffee, dark chocolate and moderate consumption of alcohol, such as one glass of wine a day for women, can be beneficial, he said.
Ristow said studies have shown people in countries close to the Mediterranean, such as Italy, lead heart-healthy lifestyles.
“They know how to cope with stress,” he said. “They do a lot of physical activity, like walking and gardening. Many of them work into their 80s; they have a sense of purpose.”
Ristow listed factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease: family history, tobacco use, high fat diet, hypertension, gender (men are more disposed to heart attacks, but heart disease is on the rise in women), age, history of strokes, erectile dysfunction and vascular disease.
He urged Rotarians to seek immediate medical attention if they were experiencing heart attack symptoms, such as extreme chest pressure, “like an elephant is sitting on your chest,” but also could include shortness of breath, nausea and severe heartburn.
The Hinesville Rotary Club meets at 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Western Sizzlin’ Restaurant on Highway 84 in Hinesville.
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