5 ways to reduce risk of heart disease
Written by: Caroline Studdard, MD
Cullman Regional Medical Group – North
In February, we wear red for Valentine’s Day, but in healthcare, we also wear red for American Heart Month. American Heart Month dates back to 1964 when President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had suffered a near-fatal heart attack, issued the first proclamation. Heart disease remains the No. 1 killer of Americans with cases of cardiovascular disease on the rise. The good news is in most cases, you can prevent heart disease using the five guidelines below.
- Quit Smoking: Smoking one pack a day raises incidence of a heart attack six times in women and three times in men, compared to people who never smoked. By quitting, you can reduce your risk of a cardiac event by up to 47 percent. Talk to your physician for help to quit smoking – I promise we want to support you.
- Diet and weight loss: Obesity (BMI >30) significantly predicts occurrence of heart disease. Eating a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables, high fiber, low red meat and low carbohydrates can help lower risk of cardiovascular disease. At your doctor’s appointment, we can review your diet and, if needed, refer you to a registered dietitian.
- Hypertension control: Hypertension (high blood pressure) increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by about 18 percent and also increases your risk of stroke. In addition to medications, limiting caffeine consumption and salt intake can help lower your blood pressure.
- Diabetes management: Having diabetes doubles risk of cardiovascular disease in men and triples it for women. In addition, cardiovascular disease occurs at a younger age for men and women with type 2 diabetes compared to nondiabetics. To reduce this risk, it is important control diabetes through diet, weight loss and medications.
- Lowering high cholesterol: There are good and bad types of cholesterol. Low good cholesterol (HDL) and high bad cholesterol (LDL) are both risk factors for heart disease. Unfortunately, high cholesterol often runs in families. Talk with your doctor about your heart disease risk based on your cholesterol lab results and whether you would benefit from cholesterol medications.
As a primary care provider, I focus on prevention and work alongside my patients to prevent heart disease. This includes patient education, screening tests and support. If you want to improve your health and reduce your risk of heart disease, your primary care provider can help you do it.
*Health statistics according to UpToDate.com, an evidence-based clinical decision support resource for physicians.