heart healthy

Craig DeSilva
February 21, 2023

Gene Corpuz practices what he preaches. As an HMSA health coach, he teaches members about the benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle. He’s an avid runner, works out with weights, and is a competitive line dancer. He’s completed the Honolulu Marathon seven times and the Great Aloha Run more than 31 times. Corpuz doesn’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

So when he started having chest pains last year, he thought it was indigestion or acid reflux. The pain eventually went away after lying down. At an annual routine checkup, he mentioned the incident to his doctor, who ordered some tests.

Gene Corpuz taking a cardio test on a treadmill.

Corpuz passed an EKG and stress test and felt good enough to run a 5K race without any problems. But a month later, an angiogram showed blockage in his arteries. The cardiologist implanted five stents to open the blockage and help prevent a heart attack.

“It saved my life,” says Corpuz, 65. “I was a ticking time bomb. Luckily, it was caught early.”

Gene Corpuz belongs to a running/walking group in Honolulu. 

Corpuz says no matter how healthy you think you are, you should listen to your body and see a doctor if you experience symptoms.

“Common symptoms include tightness or pain in the chest with exertion but also when you’re at rest,” says Honolulu cardiologist Zia Khan, M.D. “Sometimes the pain radiates to the jaw or left arm, or you experience shortness of breath.”

Dr. Khan adds that risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, lack of exercise, smoking tobacco, and having a family history of heart disease.

The American Heart Association is using National Heart Month in February to highlight its Life’s Essential 8 campaign for lifelong good health.

  1. Eat better. That includes eating unprocessed foods, lots of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds, and nontropical oils such as olive and canola.
  2. Be more active. Adults should get 2 ½ hours of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week. Children should get 60 minutes a day of exercise, play, or structured physical activities.
  3. Quit tobacco. Cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and vaping are the leading causes of preventable death in the U.S., including about a third of all deaths from heart disease.
  4. Get quality sleep. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Children require more: 10 to16 hours for age 5 and younger, including naps; nine to 12 hours for ages 6 to 12; and eight to 10 hours for ages 13 to 18.
  5. Manage weight. The optimal body mass index is 25. Calculate your BMI online or see a health care professional.
  6. Control cholesterol. High levels of non-HDL (“bad”) cholesterol can lead to heart disease. Your doctor can order a blood test to measure your cholesterol.
  7. Manage blood sugar. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose (i.e., blood sugar) that our bodies use as energy. Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves. See your doctor to test and monitor your hemoglobin A1C to prevent diabetes, which can lead to heart disease.
  8. Manage blood pressure. Levels less than 120/80 mm Hg are optimal. High blood pressure is defined as 130-139 mm Hg systolic pressure (top number) or 80-89 mm Hg diastolic pressure (bottom number). Monitor your blood pressure at home with blood pressure monitor available at many pharmacies and online.

In addition to your physical health, Dr. Khan stresses the importance of caring for your mental health and well-being. “Do activities that work for you – whether hiking, journaling, yoga, or just going for a walk. If you work on those things, you’ll be ahead of the game for good heart health.”

To learn more about Life’s Essential 8 and ways to help prevent heart disease, visit the American Heart Association website

For more insights about cardiovascular disease in our state, check out Heart Month in Hawaii.

Gene Corpuz completed the Pride Run 5K October 8, 2022.

Hawaii Heart Walk
Join the 2023 Hawaii Heart Walk for family fun and healthy activities. Enter to walk in a team or participate on your own. Encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to walk, too. Walking is good for your heart and you’ll be supporting heart health in Hawaii. American Heart Association.

Heart Walk
Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023
Kapiolani Regional Park
Check in: 6:30 a.m.
Walk starts: 7:30 a.m.

For more information, check the American Heart Association website or call 808-377-6634.

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