Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. While the term "heart disease" collectively refers to several types of coronary and vascular disorders, these cardiac conditions are often linked by common health and lifestyle risk factors.
With expert care and a focus on prevention, some varieties of heart disease can be avoided. Preventing cardiac conditions starts with understanding your personal risk factors, including family history, cholesterol, diet and other lifestyle behaviors, and making a commitment to heart-healthy living.
Impact of lipids on your heart health
Lipids are fats that are found in the blood. If these fat particles build up in the blood, it's called high cholesterol, which is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. Nearly 40 percent of American adults struggle with high cholesterol, but learning to manage it properly can be the key to protecting your heart health.
Understanding your lipid profile can help you better manage your heart health, but it's not the only factor you should consider. Taking control of your heart health also includes familiarizing yourself with the important numbers that are used to measure it.
Regularly checking your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels — which can all be taken at home — will show you the direct impacts of the lifestyle changes you're making. Checking these numbers on a regular basis also increases your chances of detecting a problem early, so you and your doctor can treat it early.
Limit your risk of heart disease
Making lasting adjustments to the key lifestyle factors that contribute to your personal risk levels can help to drastically reduce the likelihood for heart attack, heart failure, and other cardiac diseases in the future. Healthier living doesn't have to involve complex changes. In fact, making smaller, healthier choices consistently can make a big difference.
Get more exercise
- The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes (or 2.5 hours) of moderate physical activity each week.
- Inactivity is linked with higher risks for heart disease, and other serious health conditions like type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Finding time in your schedule for more physical activity can go a long way toward supporting your healthy living goals.
Choose a heart healthy diet
- Nutrition plays a major role in improving and maintaining your heart health. Simple dietary changes can help you lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, decrease your blood sugar levels, and eliminate the types of fat in the body which place unhealthy strain on your arteries.
- Adopting a heart-healthy diet is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce your risks for cardiac disease.
- Smoking is harmful for every organ system in the human body – the heart is no exception. Regular smoking leads to higher levels of triglycerides (fat in the blood), damaged blood vessels, and plaque buildup. Each of these factors increases the risk for heart disease and stroke exponentially.
- Equally alarming, secondhand smoke inhalation increases a person's risk of developing heart disease by 25-30 percent.
- Moderation is key when it comes to healthy alcohol consumption. A glass of wine with dinner or a few drinks here and there are fine, but excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to a higher blood pressure and an increased likelihood for heart disease or other serious health problems.
- Stress takes a major toll on the body, and can eventually place dangerous levels of strain on the heart. Reducing your stress levels with exercise, good sleep, and mindfulness practices will help to lower your blood pressure and can help eliminate excess stress hormones in the body.
Prevention and proactive intervention
By working closely with patients to help them identify, understand, and manage their unique risks for cardiovascular disease, we're empowering them to recognize and respond to symptoms or warning signs long before serious complications arise.
At Lakenau Heart Institute, we offer advanced cholesterol testing to help drill down a bit more to the underlying problems in patient's cholesterol.
“We also have access to testing and advanced imaging that allows us to get a better understanding of individual cholesterol profiles,” says Lankenau Heart Institute cardiologist Erik Kelly, MD, who specializes in preventive cardiology and advanced clinical lipidology. “This leads to better diagnosis of underlying problems and allows us to tailor treatments to that individual’s specific disorder.”
Even if a patient is unaware or uncertain about their risk, there are still screening and testing options that we consider during our initial discussions. This emphasis on preventive care prompts patients to be proactive with their healthy living goals and essential routine screenings. It also encourages them to seek interventional care sooner rather than later.
“We're continuing to push the limits of what we're able to do with new diagnostic tests, new imaging modalities, new medications, and new treatments,” says Dr. Kelly. “These opportunities give hope to those who already have heart disease or who have cardiac risk factors. Hope that we do have options to lower their risk and help them live longer, better, healthier lives.”
It’s crucial to have open conversations with your physician about any health concerns. A transparent relationship between you and your doctor leads to a better understanding of cardiac diagnosis, treatments, and rehabilitation options, resulting in more positive outcomes for both you and your physician.
Our expert cardiac care teams are committed to restoring each patient to their highest level of heart heath through holistic care, ardent risk management, and ongoing support for healthier living. Visit Lankenau Heart Institute to learn more about preserving your heart health.