Dr. George Marks
“On my mother’s side, we have longevity,” said Dr. George L. Marks, Jr., Lead Physician in the Division of Cardiology at the Martin Luther King Multi-service Ambulatory Care Center (MACC). “And heart disease on my Dad’s.”
Heart disease is no stranger to his native Virginia family tree, which may in a small way have led him to the field of cardiology and the CDU alumnus completed his fellowship in cardiology in 1983.
Since there’s no way to know which set of genes will dictate his own longevity, Dr. Marks focuses on the myriad factors within his personal control to keep himself healthy. He brings that proactive attitude to treating his patients.
During his 30 years in practice, he has seen young and old struggle with heart health when much of heart disease is preventable. Here are Dr. Marks’ tips you can follow for February’s American Heart Month and beyond.
Control your weight with healthy eating and regular exercise.
A healthy lifestyle, no matter your age, can significantly decrease your risk of heart disease.
“It’s not as if families that have heart disease have different hearts,” Dr. Marks says. More likely, families that eat the same foods, and may have similar sedentary lifestyles or picked up the habit of smoking from each other will find that hypertension or diabetes will manifest, strain the heart which leads to heart disease.
“Black Americans are at great risk for heart disease, higher incidence of obesity, and high rates of diabetes. Some of these things are familial, which increases the rates of cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Marks said.
Lower your LDL cholesterol (the "bad" type) and control your blood pressure.
According to WebMD, before the age of 50, African-Americans' heart failure rate is 20 times higher than that of Whites. The popular website reports that four risk factors are the strongest predictors of heart failure: high blood pressure (also called hypertension), chronic kidney disease, being overweight, and having low levels of HDL, the ‘good’ cholesterol. Three-fourths of African-Americans who develop heart failure have high blood pressure by age 40.
Check your blood pressure and cholesterol regularly at an annual check-up, and know your numbers.
The damage smoking causes to the lungs is well known, but Dr. Marks reminds us that smoking may also cause cancer in the throat and the esophagus because of changes that can occur in their linings. And smoking does play a major role in developing early coronary artery disease. WebMD reports that almost 20% of all deaths from heart disease in the U.S. are directly related to cigarette smoking.
Demonstrating from a replica of a heart, Dr. Marks showed why the accumulation of plaque can cause a heart attack. “Surrounding muscles continue to maintain function but the muscle affected by the heart attack obviously will show decreased function.” He also showed the role plaque plays with restricting the flow of blood to the heart.
Get regular check-ups and see your doctor immediately at the first sign of heart problems.
By establishing a relationship with a physician with regular check-ups, you can have regular heart-health screenings. Dr. Marks has found that taking the time to work with each patient is the best way to help them find their way to a healthier lifestyle.
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science is located in the Watts Willowbrook area and trains a variety of health professionals. For more information about CDU, its programs and services to the community, please visit www.cdrewu.edu.