Billings Clinic


What you need to know about heart health

Posted at 3:07 PM, Feb 14, 2020

The statistics on heart disease can be staggering. Every day in the U.S., cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke combined) kills about 2,300 people. With obesity in youth and adults alike at an all-time high, more and more patients are being diagnosed with heart disease at younger ages.

To put it into perspective, the American Heart Association also shares the following facts:

  • Heart disease kills more people than all forms of cancer combined.
  • Heart attacks affect more people every year than the population of Dallas, Texas.
  • 83% of Americans believe heart attacks can be prevented but aren’t motivated to do anything.
  • 72% of Americans don’t consider themselves at risk for heart disease.
  • And 58% put no effort into improving their heart health.

That might sound pretty scary and can paint a dire picture. But, despite heart disease being the number one killer of Americans – it causes an estimated one in four deaths every year – knowing what to look for and committing to a handful of simple lifestyle changes can make a world of difference in both prevention and management of heart disease year-round.
With American Heart Month taking place throughout February, it’s a great time to make sure you’re up to speed on signs and symptoms as well as how to live a heart-healthy lifestyle.

First, knowing what to look out for is vital so you can respond appropriately if you or someone nearby is having a heart attack. Common symptoms include pain or discomfort in the chest; lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting; jaw, neck or back pain; discomfort or pain in the arm or shoulder; and shortness of breath. Keep in mind that while chest pain is the most common symptom in both men and women, women are also more likely to see other common symptoms, including shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting and pain in the back or jaw.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or feel that you are having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.

Making sure you’re also living a heart-healthy lifestyle is the key to prevention. Pushing past or ignoring early symptoms of cardiovascular disease can be all too easy while we focus on work, family and the rest of the hustle of day-to-day life. Due to growing obesity numbers across the U.S., heart disease is showing up in younger and younger ages.

An important tool is your primary care physician or cardiologist. Talking about heart health with a physician can help create a personalized plan that addresses any specific needs and goals. Prevention can go a long way toward maintaining heart health, and the cardiology team at Billings Clinic can help. For starters, they suggest the following:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Quit smoking or using other tobacco products and stay away from secondhand smoke.
  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
  • Get active and eat healthily.

Not only do these steps help prevent heart disease, keeping a healthy weight and lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels can also help future generations do the same.
“You set a good example for your kids, for your family,” Barbara Dudczak, MD, a Billings Clinic Cardiologist. “You eat right, you exercise. They will see you do that, and they will follow your example. That’s an important legacy, and we all have that responsibility. I always tell my patients, ‘You want to be there. You want to celebrate your kid’s wedding or graduation.’ This is how you make sure you’re there.”

At Billings Clinic – the largest health care system in Montana – the team at the John R. Burg MD Cardiac Center is dedicated to helping raise awareness and continuing to provide a year-round, complete heart care program for thousands of patients across Montana, Wyoming and the western Dakotas.

This robust program includes an experienced team of cardiologists, surgeons, technologists, nurses and more; cutting-edge technology and procedures available nowhere else in a multistate area; and other resources to provide comprehensive diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation to patients and their heart health. Billings Clinic is the highest volume heart center in the state and the only accredited American College of Cardiology Chest Pain Center with Primary PCI and Resuscitation in Montana and Wyoming.

For more information on Billings Clinic and its heart care program, call (406) 238-2000 or visit