The proper care for the heart was the subject of a lecture-forum organized by the Philippine Association of University Women-UP chapter (PAUW-UP), with Dr. Esperanza I. Cabral, former Secretary of the Department of Health, former director of the Philippine Heart Center and UP College of Medicine alumna, as guest speaker. The lecture-forum on “Heart Matters” was held on February 27, 2019 in the Tea Room of the UP College of Home Economics.
In lieu of a formal speech, Dr. Cabral fielded questions from an audience consisting of UP faculty and retired faculty members as well as administrative staff on medical concerns regarding the heart and health in general. Most of the questions significantly affect women and senior citizens.
Some of the questions she answered during the discussion were the following:
Q. How often should people, particularly women, have a heart check-up with a doctor?
Cabral: It varies. For people like us, early detection is important; so we should get regular check-ups with our doctors. Even if you are feeling well, you should go for a checkup with your doctor, maybe every six months. If you do not feel well, that is certainly time for you to see your doctor.
Q. For women who are undergoing menopause, doctors sometimes prescribe estrogen pills. Are these safe?
Cabral: All drugs have side effects. If they tell you that something is a drug but has no side effect, don’t believe it.
For people who go into menopause, estrogen pills can be prescribed to relieve the symptoms associated with menopause. Now as I said, all medicines have side effects, including estrogen. There is a very slight increase in the incidence of breast cancer associated with estrogen, but it is very slight. Let’s say 10 out of every 100 women will develop breast cancer. If you take estrogen, then it becomes 11 out of 100 women who will develop breast cancer. But it still means that even if you are taking estrogen, 89 of 100 women will not develop breast cancer, compared to 90 out of 100 of women not taking estrogen who will develop breast cancer. It’s a decision that you and your doctor will have to make for you.
Q. What kind of exercise should we do and what kind of food are we supposed to eat to help make our heart healthy?
Cabral: When it comes to both physical activity and diet, you need to use your common sense. We should move as much as our body allows us to move at our age. Just move. Dance, or play the piano, or walk. Gentle exercises that you can tolerate.
When it comes to diet, there is nothing better than a well-balanced diet. Don’t believe these things like high-fat, high-protein, low-carbohydrates or high-carb diets. Don’t listen to the fads; they change from one day to the next. Just eat a balanced diet, and if you want to lose weight, eat less.
Q. Is it okay to take herbal and food supplements? Do these have side effects?
Cabral: They have plenty of side effects. And they are not going to cure anything. One of the things that I did when I was DOH Secretary was to translate into Filipino the term “no approved therapeutic claims”: “Ito ay hindi gamot, at hindi dapat gawing gamot para sa anumang sakit.” These supplements did not go through the process of investigation, so the Bureau of Food and Drug Administration cannot guarantee that they can cure anything.
Now if it is just garlic or ginger pills or things we eat on a regular basis, you can go ahead and take them if you want to. But there are many herbal and food supplements that have harmful effects, including cancer and kidney failure. Regular medicines can do that, too, but at least we know and can be warned about them. There has been plenty of research done on the harmful effects of herbal and food supplements. Your doctor can tell you these things; so you need to rely on your doctor.
Q. What are the warning signs of an impending stroke or heart attack?
Cabral: These warning signs are late in coming. When you see a warning sign, it’s too late already. You should instead prevent these warning signs by keeping the blood pressure under control, not smoking, eating a balanced diet, and exercising as much as you can tolerate. Just live a healthy life; that is the best way of preventing strokes and heart attacks.
In her remarks after Dr. Cabral’s talk, PAUW-UP Chapter president, Atty. Ma. Gabriela R. Concepcion, stated that the PAUW-UP aims to “make our presence more felt on campus, and this is one way: to be of service to the community by having discussions and intimate conversations on matters that are important to us.” The lecture-forum featuring Dr. Cabral is the first in a series to be organized by PAUW-UP this year.