Monday, February 4, 2013
As a public health issue, coronary heart disease is second to none. For one, it is the leading killer of both men and women in the U.S. This year, it is projected that close to 1 million Americans will suffer heart attacks. Of these, about two-thirds are first-time heart attack patients, while about one-third of them have already had at least one.
Coronary disease is expensive to treat because of its pervasiveness – which impacts us all indirectly. Heart disease alone accounts for about 10 percent of annual healthcare expenditures in the U.S., at almost $110 billion.
But heart disease is largely preventable. The major risk factors for coronary disease are hypertension (high blood pressure), elevated cholesterol, cigarette smoking, diabetes (elevated blood sugar), and family history of coronary disease. About half of all Americans have at least one risk factor. The only one that you can't control is your family history. The rest are up to you and your doctor.
Recognize your risk
A family history and some simple blood tests will help you and your doctor evaluate your risk. Simply put, the more chances of having heart disease factors you have, the higher your risk.
If your blood pressure is elevated, if your cholesterol is high and if your fasting blood sugar and/or Hemoglobin A1C are elevated, you can do a lot to correct these without medications just by changing your diet and lifestyle.
Know your numbers
Optimal blood pressure is lower than 130/80. Total cholesterol should be under 200. HDL (good cholesterol) should be greater than 40 in men and 50 in women. LDL (bad cholesterol) should be under 100 in both.
Your fasting blood sugar should be under 100, and Hemoglobin A1C lower than 6.5 if you have never been diagnosed as having diabetes. Depending on your risk factors, some additional non-invasive testing may be necessary and will be recommended by your doctor.
Diet and exercise are critical
If you are overweight, you will need to decrease your total daily calories by reducing your carbohydrate (sugars and starches) and animal fats intake. Healthy substitutions are the key. Build a healthy eating plan around whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits, fish and poultry. Use olive oil, avocados and nuts as healthy sources of fats in your diet. Eat organic whenever possible. Avoid processed foods.
Regular aerobic exercise can be as simple as walking 30 to 40 minutes per day. Weight training increases bone density and muscle mass. This helps decrease your percentage of body fat and makes you less vulnerable to osteoporosis and diabetes. It can even naturally raise testosterone levels.
Remember, the heart is like any other muscle. It remains strong with exercise.
If diet and exercise are not enough to make necessary changes in your risk factors, your doctor may prescribe some very effective drugs to improve blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. If you are a smoker, there are many modalities available that can finally help you quit.
Heart attacks are not an inevitable part of aging. Make healthy choices now to avoid becoming a statistic.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Ciccone please call (843) 606-8980.
Roper St. Francis Healthcare