Overview of Prevention

Despite tremendous advances in the treatment and prevention of heart disorders, cardiovascular disease remains the #1 killer of men and women in the United States, as well as most westernized countries. There are many types of heart disease, but the most common is coronary artery disease (CAD), which is a type of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. CAD is a chronic condition, but it’s most serious complications are sudden dramatic events, such as a heart attack (myocardial infarction, or MI) are sudden death due to irregular heartbeat. We refer to these episodes as “cardiac events”, and the goal of cardiovascular prevention is eliminating these events, or at least minimizing their inpact.  Despite all of the advances in the treatment of heart disease, over 1 million of these events occur every year in the United States, and are fatal in one third of patients. Since many of these patients can die before even reaching medical attention, prevention is the key!

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a chronic condition, and its occurrence and progression is promoted by underlying conditions we called risk factors. Some risk factors are fixed, such as age, gender, and family history, while others are acquired conditions.   The most common acquired risk factors are tobacco use, diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), and high cholesterol. Other conditions, such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and high stress also seem to contribute to the progression of CAD, as well as sudden events such as heart attack.

Therefore, in patients who are at risk of having a cardiac event, prevention is the best strategy.  This entails modifying  diet, weight, and activity level, tobacco use, as well as identifying underlying risk factors such as diabetes hypertension and high cholesterol and intervening appropriately. Many of these risk factors themselves can be treated by lifestyle changes with the appropriate use of medications.

Given that heart disease is the top killer of American adults, all of us should consider ourselves at risk of heart disease, and therefore a”heart healthy” lifestyle really means an overall “healthy” lifestyle.  The medical community has spent the last 50 years studying the relationship between risk factors and heart disease, and we have learned a tremendous amount regarding cardiac prevention. We hope that this site will help emphasize the key principles of prevention, point out some of the newer advances, and provide practical lifestyle advice based on sound science. Please visit our list of main articles here, or our updated postings on our home page.

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