Heart Disease is the Leading Cause of Death in the United States

We need to prevent cardiovascular disease because it is the leading cause of death in the United States. The underlying mechanism of cardiovascular disease in most people is the buildup of atherosclerotic plaque in the lining of their arteries. The first stages of this atherosclerosis may start early in life, and it can lead to disease decades later with the accumulation of atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries. Serious events occur when the plaque ruptures and leads to a sudden blockage of the artery. Some people have no symptoms while the plaque is building up, and a major event such as a heart attack may be their first manifestation of cardiovascular disease.

The time window between the buildup of plaque in the arteries and the start of symptoms, gives us an opportunity to prevent the progression of heart disease. We have learned that cardiovascular disease is often related to modifiable risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity and elevated cholesterol levels. Sometimes the risks run in families due to shared genes, or shared family habits. The risks factors will tend to multiply each other when they are present in the same individual.

Assessing Your Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Preventing cardiovascular disease starts with assessing your individual risk for cardiovascular disease by looking at your risk factors.  There are different risk factor calculators that can be used to assess whether a person is at high risk or low risk for cardiovascular disease. Some of the cardiovascular risk calculators available to the public can be found at:  http://www.cvriskcalculator.com/, http://www.reynoldsriskscore.org/

preventing cardiovascular disease
Buildup of atherosclerotic plaque in the lining of the arteries.
exercise reduces risk of heart disease
Reduce your risk of cardiovasular disease by exercising a minimum of 20 minutes per day.

Once a person’s cardiovascular risk is assessed, we can achieve ideal cardiovascular health by focusing on goals to modify their risk factors. A physician can work with you to achieve these goals and reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. We have listed the goals and some helpful websites with more information:

  1. Eating a Healthy Diet
    A healthy diet should consist of vegetables, whole grains, nuts, lean meats and healthy fats. https://www.cardiosmart.org/Healthy-Living/Eat-Better
  2. Getting Adequate Physical Activity
    A minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise is recommended. This translates roughly into exercising for at least 20 minutes every day. https://www.cardiosmart.org/Healthy-Living/Move-More
  3. Achieving and Maintaining a Normal Body Weight https://www.cardiosmart.org/Healthy-Living/Lose-Weight, https://www.cardiosmart.org/Healthy-Living/Lose-Weight/Obesity-and-Heart-Disease
  4. Maintaining the Right Cholesterol Levels. https://www.cardiosmart.org/~/media/Documents/Fact%20Sheets/Tips/Prevention-Healthy-Habits-Protect-Your-Heart.ashx
  5. Maintaining the Right Blood Pressure Levels and Treating Hypertension. https://www.cardiosmart.org/~/media/Documents/Fact%20Sheets/Tips/Prevention-Healthy-Habits-Protect-Your-Heart.ashx
  6. Maintaining Good Blood Glucose Levels
    Prevention or Treatment of Diabetes
  7. Not Smoking
    https://www.cardiosmart.org/Healthy-Living/Stop-Smoking

Managing these goals can be expected to help a person attain their ideal state of cardiovascular health. These goals can also help to prevent other serious illness, such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity related illnesses. Some tools to help you work on these may be found at https://www.cardiosmart.org/Healthy-Living/Know-your-Numbers.