Cardiac Prevention: Key Steps to Safeguard Your Heart Health

Cardiac Prevention: Key Steps to Safeguard Your Heart Health

Many people mistakenly believe that heart disease only affects older individuals and postpone their worries about it. While it’s true that heart attacks and heart failure typically impact people in their 50s and older, the risk factors for heart disease begin to develop at a young age.

Four significant risk factors may already be present even in young individuals, but proactive measures can help reduce the long-term risk of heart disease and stroke.

The first major factor is high blood pressure. Often silent, high blood pressure gradually increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other issues by straining the heart and blood vessels. Regular blood pressure checks are essential, and if levels are high, consulting a doctor is crucial. The target blood pressure is less than 120/80, and management options may involve lifestyle changes or medications.

The second factor is cholesterol. Elevated cholesterol levels, similar to high blood pressure, contribute to increased cardiovascular risk over time by fostering the growth of fatty plaques in arteries. A baseline cholesterol panel is recommended, and if levels are elevated, discussing treatment options with a doctor is important. Cholesterol levels have a genetic component but can also be influenced by a healthy diet and regular exercise.

The third significant factor is diabetes, often linked to a poor diet, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. You can mitigate the risk of developing diabetes by adopting a more physically active lifestyle and improving your diet. If you already have diabetes, working with a physician to manage it effectively is crucial.

Lastly, smoking is a clear risk factor. If you’re a smoker, the best decision for your heart health is to quit. There are supportive options available, and it’s worth trying to quit even if you’ve attempted before. Your heart will undoubtedly appreciate it.

These lifestyle adjustments can be implemented at home, but if you have concerns or want to discuss your risk with a cardiologist, we’d be more than happy to assist you.

Dr. George Leef is a general cardiologist practicing in Palm Beach County, FL. He completed his residency training in Internal Medicine at Stanford in 2018 and his fellowship in Cardiovascular Medicine at Johns Hopkins in 2021.