Prevention


Risk Factors 


Count your risk factors for heart disease

  • Male 45 years or older
  • Female 55 years or older
  • Female under age 55 with premature menopause not treated with estrogen replacement therapy
  • Smoker
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Family history of heart disease (a parent or sibling under 55 if male, or under 65 if female)
  • High total blood cholesterol
  • Low HDL (good) blood cholesterol (you can subtract one risk factor if HDL is higher than 60)
  • High LDL (bad) blood cholesterol
  • High triglyceride blood level
  • Obesity – 30% or more overweight
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • History of vascular disease
Unfortunately, certain risk factors such as family history and gender cannot be changed. However, by modifying other risk factors, the odds of having a heart attack can be substantially reduced.

For individuals with heart disease, the lowering of the LDL cholesterol below 100 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter of blood) can stabilize coronary disease or even promote regression of coronary disease.

More detailed explanations are available at www.americanheart.org and www.acc.org.

 Lipids: Cholesterol and Triglyceride 

Lipids: Cholesterol and Triglyceride

The fat and fat-like substances in the blood are called lipids and include both cholesterol and triglycerides. Cholesterol is present in every cell of your body. It is used to form cell membranes and part of some hormones. The body manufactures the majority of required cholesterol, mostly in the liver; therefore, excessive dietary cholesterol intake is unnecessary and may be harmful.

Animal foods such as meats, poultry, fish, seafood, egg yolks, and dairy products are rich in cholesterol. Plant foods such as fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables and grains do not contain cholesterol.

Cholesterol will not dissolve in the bloodstream; it is transported to and from cells by special carriers called lipoproteins. The low density lipoprotein (LDL) is the major cholesterol carrier in the blood and contributes to plaque formation in the arteries. When clots form at the site of plaques, blood flow is interrupted, leading to heart attacks or strokes. Thus LDL cholesterol is known as the bad cholesterol.

The high density lipoprotein (HDL) is mostly made by the liver. It is thought to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and away from plaques back to the liver where it is eliminated. Thus high levels of HDL cholesterol are good; likewise, low levels increase the risk of heart attacks. HDL levels are difficult to raise.


"Exercise appears to help; less clear is the role of alcohol. Two drinks of alcohol per day may help raise HDL; more than two can contribute to high blood pressure, high triglycerides, liver disease, and weakening of the heart muscle . "

Triglycerides are blood fats derived from food and manufactured in the liver. Although less of a risk factor than high cholesterol, elevated triglyceride levels are associated with heart disease.

Levels less than 200 mg/dl are considered normal.
Levels between 200 and 400 mg/dl increase risk of heart attacks, and higher levels (400 to over 1000 mg/dl) add risks of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and diabetes.

For more information on the National Cholesterol Education Program you may click here

Basic Diet Information  

Dietary modification is the first step in controlling cholesterol. A healthy diet should limit total cholesterol intake to no more than 300 milligrams per day. Total fat intake of less than 40 grams per day will aid in weight loss and lipid management. Different types of fats exert different effects on cholesterol levels.

Saturated fatty acids in the diet raise cholesterol. Animal foods high in saturated fatty acids include red meat, poultry skin, and dairy products. Plant foods high in saturated fatty acids include coconut oil, tropical oil, and cocoa butter.

Saturated fatty acids should be less than 10 percent of total calories each day.

Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids may help reduce cholesterol levels when substituted for saturated fatty acids. They should be less than 10 and 15 percent of your daily calories respectively.


"Oils high in polyunsaturated fats include vegetable cooking oils, such as corn, safflower, sunflower, and soybean. Better choices are found in monounsaturated oils such as olive and canola oils".

Unfortunately, changes in diet will not always provide the necessary response in blood lipid levels; genetic factors also exert an influence. During the last several years, major advances in drug therapy have helped lead to substantial reductions in lipid levels. Consultation should be made with your doctor to choose the appropriate therapy.

Omega 3 Fish oil has antioxidant properties and may help to reduce cholesterol when taken at 1,000 to 6,000mg per day.

For more information on a Heart healthy diet please visit the Mayo Clinic website.

Stop Smoking  

Cigarette smoking is arguably the greatest threat to a healthy heart. Cigars are also linked to higher incidences of heart disease.

Your primary care physician can provide suggestions about the current therapies and drugs that help you stop smoking.

For more detailed information on smoking cessation please visit the American Heart Association website.

Exercise  & Control Diabetes   

Exercise

Aerobic exercise helps protect against heart disease. The greatest benefit is achieved with at least three 30-minute exercise sessions per week.

Activities do not need to be strenuous. Walking, swimming or bike riding are some of the easier habits to adopt.

For more detailed information on aerobic exercise visit the Cleveland Clinic website.

Control Diabetes

Diabetes is associated with premature atherosclerosis and small vessel disease. Tighter control of blood sugar levels is thought to reduce complications secondary to diabetes.

Appropriate weight loss in Type II diabetes reduces the risk of cardiac disease.

For more detailed information on diabetes you may visit the American Heart Association website.

Aspirin a Day      

Aspirin is an effective blood thinner. Patients with heart disease should take one aspirin per day to lessen the risk of heart attacks. The usual dosage is one adult aspirin (325 mg).

"Coated aspirin is recommended to reduce gastric irritation and a baby aspirin (81 mg) can be used for individuals unable to tolerate full strength".

Patients with allergies to aspirin should discuss alternatives with their physicians and in most cases aspirin should be avoided in patients on Coumadin.

For more detailed information on aspirin and heart disease visit the American Heart Association website.

What is Homocysteine?       

Homocysteine is an amino acid found in the blood. Elevated levels are associated with increased risk of heart and vascular disease.

Unfortunately accurate measurement of homocysteine levels is not yet readily available for all cardiac patients.

"Diets high in folic acids and B vitamins lower homocysteine levels, but no controlled studies have directly shown that dietary supplements lower the risk of heart disease. With that caveat, a balanced diet and a multivitamin with folic acid and B vitamins may be beneficial".

For more detailed information you may visit the American Heart Association website.

Vascular Disease: Neck & Leg        

High Blood Pressure            

Blocked arteries in the neck, the carotid arteries, can lead to stroke when sufficiently narrowed. Stethoscope examination of the neck can detect sounds called bruits which often indicate carotid artery blockage. The severity can be estimated by carotid ultrasound and doppler evaluation and appropriate treatment can be instituted.

Claudication is the name of the leg pain usually first noticed with blocked leg arteries. It typically occurs with walking a specific distance and is relieved by rest. Palpation of the leg pulses and doppler evaluation of the legs can help guide treatment.

Carotid artery disease and vascular disease of the extremities is strongly correlated with coronary artery disease.

If you have vascular disease, you should discuss appropriate screening tests for heart disease with your physician.

For more detailed information on Peripheral Vascular Disease visit the American Heart Association website.

High blood pressure, called hypertension, is directly related to coronary artery disease and thickening of the heart muscle. The majority of high blood pressure is called essential hypertension and is readily treatable.

Typically the goal is a pressure below 120/70 (systolic/diastolic) with a target blood pressure of 135/85. Proper diets including low sodium diets, exercise, and appropriate weight loss all help in controlling blood pressure. There is a wide range of medications available for blood pressure control.

Less common causes of hypertension include kidney disease, vascular disease, or rare tumors. Consult your physician for proper evaluation.

For more detailed information on Peripheral Vascular Disease visit the American Heart Association website or the the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website.
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