This month, we look into the matters of the heart — figuratively and literally. Aside from celebrating Valentine’s, every February, we also observe the Philippine Heart Month to encourage everyone all over the nation to focus their attention to cardiac health issues. So aside from showing your appreciation for the special people in your life, don’t forget to love yourself as well by caring for your cardiovascular health. To help you out, we lay down expert tips for a healthy heart from Dr. Joseph Raymond Cuaresma.

A cardiologist available for online consultations via SeeYouDoc, Dr. Cuaresma currently heads the Cardiology Department of the National Center for Mental Health and is an Associate Active Consultant of the Cardiology Section of Makati Medical Center. In an episode of Bagong Gawi aired on Radyo Singko 92.3 FM, Dr. Cuaresma shared the following important habits we can adopt to care for our heart.

1. Know the risks

Cardiovascular health issues arise from a variety of factors, which can be classified into two: modifiable and non-modifiable. “‘Pag sinabi mong modifiable risk factor, [ito ay] mga factor na pwede mong magawan ng paraan. Tulad ng inactivity pag ikaw ay laging nakaupo [at] walang ginagawa, dapat ikaw ay mag-ehersisyo,” Dr. Cuaresma detailed.

(When you say modifiable risk factors, it refers to factors you can manage. There’s inactivity, for example. When you’re always sitting down and doing nothing, you need to exercise.)

Other lifestyle aspects you can change, aside from inactivity, is of course, your diet. For a healthy heart, well-balanced and safely prepared meals are important.

As for non-modifiable risk factors, the number one thing you need to pay attention to is your age. “‘Pag ikaw ay tumatanda o may lahi ng sakit sa puso, ito ay talagang mapupunta sayo at ikaw ay magkakaroon talaga ng sakit sa puso,” he explained.

(If you’re aging or if your family has a history of having cardiovascular diseases, you will likely experience a cardiac issue as well..)

On top of age, you also have to look out for your blood pressure, sugar levels, fat accumulation, and cholesterol levels. According to Dr. Cuaresma, having hypertension, diabetes mellitus, obesity, and high cholesterol are criteria for having metabolic syndrome, which puts you at greater risk for various diseases. “[If you] have at least three of the four criteria ng metabolic syndrome, mataas ang chance magkaroon ng sakit sa puso —di man ngayon, then in the future.”

(If you have at least three of the four criteria for having metabolic syndrome, there’s a greater chance you’ll have a cardiovascular disease if not now, then in the future.)

2. Take charge of your health

Having heart issues as we reach old age might be inevitable, but we can prevent its onset and its progression by tweaking our lifestyles as soon as we can with more exercise and a regulated diet. To help prevent heart diseases, Dr. Cuaresma shares, “Kailangan bawasan ang taba at salt. Kailangan mag-exercise 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes in a week."

(You need to lessen intake of fat and salt. You also need to exercise 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes in a week.)

Healthy heart tips from a cardiologist include regular exercise.
Regular exercise is important for a healthy heart. Photo by Chander R / Unsplash

Losing weight, of course, needs to be healthy and planned. "We have to reduce our body weight by about 7 to 10 per cent,” he advises, “at ‘di dapat biglaan, [do it] in a span of 6 to 12 months."

(We have to reduce our body weight by about 7 to 10 per cent and it shouldn’t be abrupt, do it in a span of 6 to 12 months.)

Taking these steps won’t be easy.  Adopting these changes “is a very conscious effort on our part.” Dr. Cuaresma acknowledges. However, it’s a little sacrifice we have to make now in order to not regret  our choices once we do develop a heart disease later in life.

3. Start as early as possible

While older people are more at risk for developing cardiovascular diseases, it’s still important to adopt these healthy heart tips even at a young age. Dr. Cuaresma warns, “pabata nang pabata na talaga [ang nagkakaroon ng sakit sa puso] specifically because of lifestyle. Most of our teens, nagsisimula na ‘di kumain ng tama at ‘di nag-eexercise.

(More and more younger people are developing heart diseases specifically because of their lifestyles. Most of our teens begin to have unhealthy diets and lead inactive lives.)

He cites that some teenage patients start to develop atherosclerosis, a disease where fat deposits build up artery walls, early. Dr. Cuaresma stresses, “ang information [ay importante] talaga and we have to educate our young individuals — our young patients — na talaga at the early onset.”

(Information is really important and we have to really educate our young individuals our young patients — at the early onset.)

4. Seek guidance with online consultations

Aside from keeping in mind these healthy heart tips to improve your lifestyle, Dr. Cuaresma also highlights the need for regular medical visits to properly monitor your health. But now when heading out is especially dangerous because of developing COVID-19 variants, getting checked through online consultations can still help greatly.

elderly patients can now book online consultations with cardiologists with apps like SeeYouDoc
At-risk and elderly patients can now book online consultations with cardiologists with apps like SeeYouDoc. Photo by Joshua Hoehne / Unsplash

"Kaya nga po andiyan ang ating mga online app, ang SeeYouDoc, para po sa ating mga pasyente na ‘di nakakapunta ng doktor, lalo na yung mga high-risk: ‘yong mga elderdly at ‘yong mga may sakit sa puso," he explains.

(For those who can’t go to the doctor, especially those who are at high-risk of getting COVID-19 like the elderly and those with heart diseases, there are online apps like SeeYouDoc.)

Need more expert advice to care for your heart? The DOH-accredited SeeYouDoc app has a number of licensed cardiologists like Dr. Cuaresma available for online consultations that are ready to help you out. Access the booking platform via web or by downloading the mobile app for Android and Apple users and find the healthcare you deserve today.