“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways . . .”
– William Shakespeare
It’s February: Heart Health Month! Fitting, as Valentine’s Day—the annual celebration of love and hearts—is smack dab in the middle of the month
Statistics show that 1 in 3 people will die of heart disease in the U.S. and it is the leading cause of death for breast cancer survivors, and women overall. With those numbers in mind, perhaps we need to ask,
“How do you love your heart?”
We asked a cardiologist (someone who studies and treats heart and circulatory diseases) to help us “count the ways” we can love and take care of our hearts, and February is the perfect month to get started!
Dr. Courtney Jordan Baechler is the Medical Director for the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation’s Emerging Science Centers and a cardiologist at Minneapolis Heart Institute®. Her first piece of advice?
“Prevention, prevention, prevention.” Dr. Jordan Baechler begins passionately, the importance of the word highlighted by her emphatic repetition. “A big part of prevention is lifestyle choices: exercise, maintaining a good body mass index, and good nutrition.” She recommends the Mediterranean Diet or Anti-inflammatory Diet to her patients, and notes that, “Heart disease shares many of the same risk factors as breast cancer, such as age, family history, tobacco use, how we eat, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle.”
As a cardiologist, Dr. Jordan Baechler often works closely with oncologists. “Often times, cancer treatments require cardiac assessment to make sure the heart is healthy before, during, and after a cancer treatment. If it gets to a point where we feel there is damage to a patient’s heart, there is conversation about not using, stopping, or changing a treatment.”
Unfortunately, radiation and chemotherapy for breast cancer can have long-term effects on heart health. “Radiation can actually stiffen the heart tissue, which can lead to high blood pressure, heart rhythm irregularities, blockages in coronary arteries, heart valve diseases, and blood clots,” explains Dr. Jordan Baechler.
As for the effects of chemotherapy, “Adriamycin and Herceptin—two of the leading chemotherapies to treat breast cancer—can cause heart failure, when the heart slowly loses it ability to pump blood throughout the body. Women who are experiencing heart failure often have swollen legs, difficulty breathing, and/or a feeling of fullness in their belly caused by fluid backing up in other tissues.”
Dr. Jordan Baechler is quick to share her cardiologist mantra, “Time is muscle,” when it comes to someone who is experiencing signs and symptoms that are concerning. “The faster we can get you in, the faster we can find out what’s happening and treat it accordingly.” She observes that, “Women have such a good gut instinct about things. If you’re experiencing something that is worrisome to you, it’s important to get it checked out.” Signs of a heart attack include chest pressure or tightness (like an elephant or vise is squeezing your chest), jaw or teeth pain, arm numbness, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and sweating can all be signs of heart and artery problems.
Unfortunately, there are huge health disparities between men and women in every area of cardiology. As an example, “Men tend to do better after heart attacks. They tend to get more interventions when they present with chest pain.” Dr. Jordan Baechler explains, “Ultimately, women have many challenges concerning their role in society – they have so much pressure on them to do multiple things at the same time—and this leads to challenges in getting the best care for themselves and putting themselves first.”
Dr. Jordan Baechler understands completely – she is a mother, daughter, sister, and hardworking doctor. “It is hard to put ourselves first. But to be healthy for everything else we want to put first—whether that be our families, careers, and so on—the best thing we can do is schedule those preventative exams and take care of ourselves.” With the COVID pandemic, doctors are even schedule virtual visits, making it even easier to “see” a doctor and determine if you need an in-person appointment.
Finally, Dr. Jordan Baechler offers this important fact: “Mental health is 30% of the cause of subsequent heart disease. Whether it is social isolation, anger, depression, or anxiety, poor mental health really impacts your heart health.”
Luckily for us, Dr. Jordan Baechler is passionate about sharing wellbeing strategies for your body, mind, and spirit. During COVID, she’s written several blogs that include practical advice that will not only impact your mental health, but your physical and heart health as well. Topics she covers on the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation website include: Aromatherapy, Music, Movement, Meditation, Practicing Gratitude, Laughter, Sleep, Eating Seasonally, and more!
We are simply #GlowingWithGratitude for Dr. Jordan Baechler’s time and expertise on this important topic for all women. Find out more at:
– The American Heart Association
– Minneapolis Heart Institute
Courtney Jordan Baechler, MD, MS
Medical Director, Emerging Science Centers
Dr. Courtney Jordan Baechler serves as medical director for the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation’s emerging science centers including women’s cardiovascular research, prevention and global outreach. She is a general cardiologist at Minneapolis Heart Institute® who is passionate about a healthy state of wellbeing — body, mind and spirit — and is a national leader in integrative medicine and wellness. Dr. Jordan Baechler previously served as the Assistant Commissioner for Health Improvement for the State of Minnesota and also helped grow and lead the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing at Allina Health. She has served on the national prevention committee for the American College of Cardiology and the MN Department of Health State and Prevention of Cardiovascular and Stroke Committee.
Written by Amy Tix, Firefly Staffer and 14+ year breast cancer survivor who worries about the potential for heart disease following her own toxic breast cancer treatments so many years ago!