Media contacts:
Sherry Baker, 404/377-1398,
Kathi Ovnic, 404/727-9371,
Janet Christenbury, 404/727-8599,
July 29, 2002


Emory Cardiologist Says Use The News To Take Control Of Your Heart Health

Are you a young person who thought you didn't have to worry about heart attacks for another 20 years -- until you heard the recent news that the American Heart Association (AHA) is now advising physicians to routinely evaluate the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients as young as 20? Or are you a woman going through menopause who believed taking daily pills containing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) would protect you from heart disease -- until research was announced declaring that it might increase your risk instead?

It's enough to strike fear, confusion or a feeling of fatalism in some folks. But Emory cardiologist Laurence Sperling, M.D. says the recent spate of news about cardiovascular disease starting early and HRT not being a "magic bullet" to protect from heart attack and stroke actually has a postive side -- no matter your age or sex.

"Knowledge truly is power, especially when it comes to your heart health. Even if a person finds they are at high risk for heart disease, there's no reason to panic. Instead, there are a host of proven ways you can lower those risks and work to prevent future heart attacks and strokes," says Dr. Sperling, Director of Emory's Heartwise Risk Reduction Program.

For example, he points out the AHA's call for young people to begin being screened for heart disease at age 20 is an opportunity to take control of your future health. "Young people are usually concerned about how they look physically on the outside -- but it's time to realize you need to also be concerned about what's going on the inside. We now know that it takes years for fatty plaques in arteries to accumulate and form blockages, leading to heart attacks and strokes. If you have high cholesterol and triglyceride levels at an early age, you may be at the early stage of this plaque buildup. But diet, exercise and medication, if necessary ,can reduce this build up - and even possibly reverse it," says Dr. Sperling.

"We all tend to think we are invincible and will live forever when we are 20. The AHA recommendation is a wake up call that heart disease can begin to do its damage years before have symptoms. Why not incorporate lifestyle changes now to help you have an active, healthy future down the road?"

Dr. Sperling says women who have recently learned HRT will not protect them from heart disease also shouldn't despair: "Instead, talk to your doctor about exercise -- which can help protect your heart and strengthen your bones in the post-menopausal years -- and a healthy diet. Working on weight management, keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol at healthy levels are all ways to work toward heart health. Yes, it takes an effort but the payoff is worth it. These are strategies to prevent heart disease that are well researched and that work to dramatically lower your risk," he emphasizes.

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S., causing close to a million deaths a year, according to the AHA. "The good news is that most causes of cardiovascular disease are preventable," says Dr. Sperling.

Return to July Index

For more general information on The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center
call Health Sciences Communication's Office at 404-727-5686,
or send e-mail to

Copyright © Emory University, 2001. All Rights Reserved.