Heart disease continues to kill a large number of Americans each year. The most common type is due to blockages in one or more heart arteries, known as coronary artery disease (CAD). Listed below are the major risk factors for heart disease as well as what you can do to lessen your chance of having a heart attack:
- Tobacco use. Stop smoking or chewing. Try over-the-counter aids such as nicotine patches or gum; alternatively, you can see your physician for a prescription medication like Chantix or Zyban.
- High blood pressure. Try to lower your blood pressure through weight loss, tobacco and alcohol cessation, salt and caffeine reduction, stress modification and exercise. Often, blood pressure medication is necessary to reduce blood pressure to target, which for most people is below 130/80.
- High cholesterol. Family history plays a big factor here, as does obesity and diet. Losing weight through a lower saturated fat diet can be helpful, and increasing fiber intake can bind cholesterol in the digestive tract. Exercise can also be beneficial, both from a weight reduction standpoint but also by raising the protective “good” cholesterol. Prescription medication from the statin class (ie: Lipitor) dramatically lowers cholesterol.
- Diabetes. Most diabetics are Type 2, which is frequently correlated with obesity. Again, weight loss is critical, as well as going on a low simple carbohydrate diet. These measures alone can often reverse mild diabetes, but frequently oral medication and/or insulin is needed to further control the disease and reduce one’s risk.
- Family history. We are most concerned about a first degree relative such as a biological father, mother, sister or brother with known disease. Although there is nothing you can do about your family history risk, it is still important to find out the specifics of that history and let your physician know. He or she can then tailor a preventative plan that is just right for you.
Though heart disease is common, it is not unbeatable. With the right team of physicians, and good health strategies, a patient can decrease his or her risk of a heart attack. If you are a member of North Idaho Direct Primary Care and are concerned that you may have symptoms related to heart disease, contact our office to schedule an appointment and start a work-up plan. If you are not a member but are interested in finding out more, you can click here for further reading. If you found this article helpful, click here to sign up for our monthly newsletter.