Lake Regional Heart Month: An Overview of Heart Disease

Rose Green-Flores
Lake Regional Health
Charles Canver, M.D., FACS, a cardiovascular-thoracic surgeon at Lake Regional.

In recognition of American Heart Month in February, Lake Regional Health System is providing education to Lake Sun readers on various heart health topics.


Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Here’s an even more startling statistic: One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from heart disease.

“The term heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, can refer to a range of conditions,” said Charles Canver, M.D., FACS, a cardiovascular-thoracic surgeon at Lake Regional. “The most common being coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure, arrhythmia and heart valve problems.”

Even though heart disease is the No. 1 killer, the American Heart Association estimates that 80 percent of heart disease is preventable.

Risk Factors

Knowing the risk factors of heart disease can help with prevention.

“There are some risk factors associated with heart disease that individuals cannot change, such as age, gender and heredity,” Dr. Canver said “However, other risk factors follow behaviors that individuals can change. Individuals who take the time to learn their risk factors, position themselves to take better control of their heart health.”

Risk factors for heart disease that people can change include:

-Smoking. The risk of developing coronary heart disease is two to four times higher for smokers than for nonsmokers, according to the American Heart Association. In addition, cigarette smoking is a powerful independent risk factor for sudden cardiac death in patients with coronary heart disease.

-High blood cholesterol. Individuals should know their total cholesterol levels, as well as their levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol, HDL “good” cholesterol and triglycerides. Individuals with high cholesterol can develop fatty deposits in their blood vessels, which can impact the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart.

“High cholesterol does not have any symptoms, but that does not stop it from being a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke,” Dr. Canver said. “To determine if you have high cholesterol, you will need a blood test.”

Once high blood cholesterol is diagnosed, treatment usually starts with lifestyle changes, such as exercising and healthier eating. If these don’t bring satisfactory results, medication might help.

-High blood pressure. High blood pressure increases the heart’s workload, increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and congestive heart failure. It, too, has no symptoms but can be found with screening. Lifestyle changes can lower blood pressure. Medication might also help.

-Obesity and overweight. People who have excess body fat — especially at the waist — are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke even if they have no other risk factors. And, being obese or overweight increases a person’s risk of developing several of the other risk factors, compounding the risk.

“Lifestyle changes, such as healthy eating, regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, avoiding tobacco smoke and limiting alcohol are some of the best ways to reduce your risk of heart disease,” Dr. Canver said.

Dr. Canver is a member of a comprehensive heart care team at Lake Regional Health System. This team includes interventional cardiologists and a cardiovascular-thoracic surgeon, as well as registered nurses and X-ray technologists who specialize in heart care. As a Level II STEMI Center, Lake Regional is equipped to provide timely, definitive heart attack care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Learn more at

Heart Disease and COVID-19

COVID-19 is a contagious respiratory illness, but studies have also shown this illness can impact the whole body and that some people are at increased risk for severe infections. According to a report from the CDC, hospitalizations were six times higher and deaths 12 times higher for COVID-19 patients with reported underlying conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease, compared to those with no reported underlying health conditions.

Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services has classified people with chronic heart disease as a high risk population. High risk individuals are part of phase 1B-tier 2 in the state’s COVID-19 vaccine availability rollout. To learn more about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as the phased rollout, visit