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.