Allen L. Oseroff, M.D.
My father always says, “If I’d known I‘d live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” Taking care of yourself is important at any age, but as the man says, earlier is best, especially as far as heart health is concerned.
The main factor for heart disease is your family history. Genetics are the most powerful predictor of who will be affected. Unfortunately, although you can’t change your genes, they can be used as a warning. That is, a strong family history of heart disease in an individual’s parents or siblings implies a strong degree of risk for that person. Once a person knows he is at high risk genetically, it becomes very important to control any other risk factors. Of course, even people who are not genetically more likely to get heart disease are better off if they control other risk factors.
Other risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes (high blood sugar), high lipids (cholesterol and fat), and smoking. Sedentary and stressful lifestyles can also contribute to risk. The good news here is that unlike family history, we have at least some control over these other risk factors.
Stopping smoking has a major effect on reducing your risk of heart disease, cancer, lung disease, and many other illnesses. Although your doctor can help you with strategies to stop smoking, the most important thing to realize is that smoking can kill you. Recognizing this, along with willpower, is how you will succeed in quitting. The improvement in the way you feel after quitting helps you stay off the cigarettes, and lowers your risk of heart disease immensely.
Diet is a big factor in controlling the other risks – high blood pressure, diabetes, and high lipids. High blood pressure can be reduced by reducing the salt in your diet. Fast foods, prepared foods (canned and frozen), and, of course, adding salt to your food all aggravate high blood pressure, and should be avoided.
Diabetes and high cholesterol can both be helped by altering your diet to include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and reducing simple sugars and fatty meats and dairy products. Regular exercise also helps blood pressure, diabetes, and lipids. The best exercise is aerobic, like walking, running, swimming, or cycling.
As always, my father is right: it’s important to take the best possible care of yourself. If you have any of the above risk factors – family history, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol – you know where you are headed: early heart disease. If you don’t like where you’re headed, then change direction by quitting smoking, and starting a good diet and exercise program. Consider making an appointment with your physician to help you set up a plan that is right for you.
Allen L. Oseroff, M.D. is board certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiovascular Disease and Interventional Cardiology. He has been in private practice in Greenville, NC for over 20 years. He is currently practicing at Regional Cardiology Consultants, P.A. and is accepting new patients.
For more information or to schedule an appointment contact:
Regional Cardiology Consultants, P.A.
2090 West Arlington Blvd., Suite B
Greenville, NC 27834