At Mercy Health, our preventive cardiology team will assess your risk of developing heart disease, and work with you to lower any signs of an impending condition. Many of the procedures used to screen for possible heart issues will be administered or requested by your primary care physician. These include blood pressure screening, body weight and BMI calculations, blood tests for glucose and cholesterol levels, and an analysis of lifestyle factors, such as diet, exercise and whether or not you use tobacco products. If your doctor reviews your results and feels that you are at a high risk for developing a heart condition, you will likely be referred to a cardiologist for further testing.
There are many risk factors for developing heart disease, but the good news is that many of these risk factors can be controlled. Our preventive cardiologists help you build a plan for lowering your risk, and getting back to living the life you love.
Actions you can take to reduce your risk of developing heart disease include:
- Lose weight - Losing weight is a key ingredient in reducing your risk of heart disease. Extra weight can take a serious toll on your body and heart.
- Control your cholesterol - Reduce LDL cholesterol levels or increase HDL cholesterol levels. Your risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack with a total cholesterol over 200 mg/dl is high. Women should aim for a 50 mg/dl HDL level, and men should aim for 40 mg/dl. Both men and women should aim for less than 130 mg/dl of LDL.
- Exercise - People who exercise are less likely to suffer from heart disease than those who do not exercise at all. Exercising as little as thirty minutes a day can improve your heart health. Regular exercise can also help reduce cholesterol levels.
- Stop smoking - People who smoke are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack as people who do not smoke. Smoking can damage the lining of the arteries, which can lead to a narrowing of the arteries. This results in less oxygen getting to the heart, which can lead to higher blood pressure and heart rate.
- Manage diabetes - Diabetes can damage the blood vessels and nerves that control the heart and blood vessels. Diabetic patients who also have high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, are obese and do not exercise are at the highest risk of heart disease. It is important to work with your doctor to manage your diabetes in order to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
- Get stress under control - Stress, left unmanaged, can lead to heart disease. Work with your doctor to develop a stress and anger management program.
- Eat a healthy diet - The food you consume on a daily basis can impact the other controllable risk factors, such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Eating foods rich in nutrients and lower in calories helps reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, legumes and nuts are all healthy choices.
- Drink in moderation - Excessive alcohol consumption can raise blood pressure, increase risk of cardiomyopathy, stroke, cancer and other diseases.
Risk factors that you cannot control include:
- Age - Men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 55 are at greater risk of developing heart disease.
- Gender - Men have heart attacks at a younger age and are at greater risk of having a heart attack.
- Heredity - Children of parents who have had heart disease are more likely to develop the disease themselves.
If you have any of the risk factors outlined above, schedule an appointment with a Mercy Health doctor to assess your risk of heart disease. Take action today to protect your heart.
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