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Patient Information and Being Heart Smart

The number one killer in America, and South Florida today is a disease that can often be prevented.

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the nation’s single leading cause of death for both men and women. At least 58.8 million people in this country suffer from some form of heart disease, while cardiovascular diseases (the combination of heart disease and stroke) kill some 950,000 Americans each year.

Studies show that nearly everyone can become more heart healthy by following a few key steps, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising, quitting smoking, and maintaining a healthy body weight. Still, there are many misconceptions about heart disease. The biggest misconception is that heart disease only happens to the elderly.

In fact, according to the American Heart Association, almost 150,00 Americans killed by cardiovascular disease each year are under the age of 65. And one out of every 20 people below the age of 40 has heart disease.

What is Heart Disease?

Heart disease is any disorder that affects the heart’s ability to function normally. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, which is the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, while some people are born with abnormalities (congenital heart disease). Various forms of heart disease include:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Arrhythmias
  • Heart failure
  • Heart valve disease
  • Congenital heart disease

Uncontrollable Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease

  • Family history of Heart Disease
  • Age
  • Women – after onset of menopause

Controllable Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Hyperlipidemia (High total cholesterol, high LDL (or bad) cholesterol, high Triglycerides, and low HDL (or good) cholesterol
  • Stressful Lifestyle
  • Sedentary/Inactive Lifestyle

Raising Good Cholesterol is Important Too. We’re all aware that we should be monitoring our overall cholesterol levels and specifically, how high our LDL Cholesterol level is. It’s important to not overlook the HDL cholesterol levels when considering Heart Disease. According to a recent article in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, a low level of the “good cholesterol” (HDL-C) is the most common lipoprotein abnormality in people with coronary heart disease. The National Cholesterol Education Program defines an HDL reading below 40 as an independent risk factor for heart disease.

There are many lifestyle interventions that will raise your HDL levels, including weight loss and diet. (drug therapies, and omega-3 (fish oil) supplements). Using monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil and canola oil, in exchange for either saturated fats or carbohydrates(,) can help lower blood cholesterol and elevate HDL cholesterol. But even more important than diet and weight loss is regular aerobic exercise.

The more aerobic exercise you do, (such as running, brisk walking, swimming or cycling) the higher the good cholesterol will be. And the duration of the exercise rather than the intensity appears to have the biggest influence. Good cholesterol rises about a milligram for every four or five miles run/ covered each week.

General Heart Disease Prevention Tips

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet
  • Improve cholesterol levels
  • Exercise
  • Control diabetes
  • Control high blood pressure
  • Control weight
  • Manage stress
  • Quit smoking