Big Sky Connection - It's National Heart Month, and given Montana's health and geographical challenges, doctors are calling on residents to take special care to keep their blood pressure and cholesterol under control, and to get strenuous exercise five times a week. Comments from Dr. Brian Rah, interventional cardiologist at Billings Clinic.
Click on the image above for the audio. - Montana faces above-average rates of obesity and diabetes, both of which are dangerous to heart health. (Adobe Stock)
February 12, 2024 - Doctors in Montana are asking people to pay close attention to their cardiac health during February, which is National Heart Month - especially since the state faces challenges that other states don't.
Montana is slightly above the national average for heart rate deaths each year.
Dr. Brian Rah, interventional cardiologist and head of cardiology at Billings Clinic, attributed that to Montana's high rates of obesity and diabetes.
He added that the state's sheer size and geography also present unique challenges, especially in an emergency.
"For example, if somebody's having a heart attack, these patients have to drive hours to the nearest hospital," said Rah, "then get flown to Billings or another major medical facility where they can do stent procedures."
Rah said the best way to ensure cardiac health is to keep blood pressure and cholesterol under control, and reach 85% of your maximum age-predicted heart rate for 30 minutes at least five times a week.
Figure that out by multiplying your age by 0.85 and subtracting it from 220.
Rah said while people often assume heart attacks happen mostly to middle-aged or older men, women are also at risk - and he has seen an increase in the number of heart problems among young people.
"Even people who are in their 20s and 30s, you know," said Rah. "I've actually had people who are in their mid-20s have big heart attacks, and about 5% or more people who are 20 actually have coronary disease."
Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in America. Rah said it is much more likely that someone in the U.S. will die of a heart attack than all types of cancer combined.