By Britt Moreno

DENVER (CBS4)– February is American Heart Month. A leading cardiologist in Denver says the biggest issues facing heart health this year are COVID-19 complications, hidden symptoms of heart issues in women and how to ensure good heart health.

Cardiologist and President of Denver Heart, as well as director of heart programs at both Rose Medical Center and Swedish Medical Center, Dr. Sam Mehta says more people are going to the heart doctor after recovering from coronavirus because their heart feels off.

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“COVID in itself can make blood vessels more likely to clot so incidence of heart attack, stroke and clots in our veins have gone up” he told CBS4’s Britt Moreno.

He goes on to say COVID-19 can cause inflammation of the heart muscle which can cause both pain and weakness of the heart muscle. Anywhere from two to eight weeks after COVID-19, people might feel as though their heart is racing or beating irregularly. They also might not be able to catch their breath. These are some of the symptoms associated with COVID-19.

Mehta says doctors have only been able to study COVID-19 for 10 months, so right now science does not understand the long term affects. He says if children experience severe COVID symptoms then they could be susceptible to these heart issues as well.

Mehta tells Moreno women have often been ignored when it comes to heart awareness, but they shouldn’t be because even women in their 20s can have heart issues. Mehta says women “have atypical symptoms like abdominal pain, sweating, it may be neck pain–symptoms that won’t always clue the patient or health care provider to say this may be their heart.”

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There are things we can do right now that will ensure our heart stays healthy regardless of whether a person has a family history of heart disease.

“We are not just a ticking time bomb,” says Mehta. “There’s very good data that exercising 2.5 to 3 hours a week significantly lowers risk heart attack and stroke and similarly a heart healthy diet does prove to form a similar reduction.”

If you can’t grow it from the ground or cook it then it is probably bad for you, Mehta tells Moreno. He recommends eliminating processed foods, complex sugars, trans and saturated fats. He says stay away from things like margarine, butter and oils, but use olive oil instead. He also recommends limiting red and processed meat. People should eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats.

Mehta and other cardiologists are wanting to see patients. He says even with COVID, people should never hesitate with a heart issue or questions. Go to the doctor and seek medical help.

Britt Moreno