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Monday, Feb. 1, 2016

Protecting your Heart

Lifestyle changes are key to prevention of disease

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Lifestyle changes are key to prevention of disease

Your heart beats 100,000 times a day, pumping blood throughout your body. For those with cardiovascular disease, commonly known as heart disease, this everyday function becomes complicated.

“The heart has a central role in our health,” cardiologist Dr. Jonathan Davis of Willis-Knighton’s Pierremont Cardiology, said.

“Its job is to [pump oxygenrich blood] to all the organs in our body. When this does not occur in an efficient manner, our quality and quantity of life is at risk.”

Heart disease consists of conditions like diseased vessels, structural problems and blood clots. Some of the most common forms of heart disease include coronary artery disease, stroke and high blood pressure. Though the disease can have devastating results, it can be preventable with lifestyle changes, Davis said.

“There is growing evidence that cardiovascular disease is largely related to poor lifestyle choices and is largely preventable,” he said.

He said risk factors for heart disease include smoking, making poor food choices and living a sedentary or inactive, lifestyle.

Exercising 30 minutes a day, five days a week reduces the risk of a heart attack or stroke by 50 percent.

As far as food, he said the Mediterranean diet, a diet consisting of mostly plant-based foods, whole grains, and nuts, cooking with olive oil and reducing salt, is the only diet that’s been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of vascular events, such as a stroke.

“There is emerging evidence that plantbased diets significantly reduce the risk of developing diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease,” he said. “Plantbased diets and also been shown to be beneficial to the cells the line the inside of her arteries. This is important in the prevention of vascular disease. In general, we should be restricting our intake of fried foods and meat.”

Smoking increases the risk of heart disease by itself, but when combined with other risk factors, such as lack of exercise and a poor diet, it greatly increases the risk of heart disease.

“The decision to not smoke cigarettes is one of the most important health decisions that an individual can make,” Davis said. The Surgeon General refers to cigarette smoking as “the leading preventable cause of disease and deaths in the United States.”

Family history is also a factor for developing heart disease, but lifestyle changes can still help prevent it.

“There is no question that genetics plays a role in the development of cardiovascular disease. An individual can overcome their genetic predisposition by adhering to a strict diet and exercising. Families who have the same habits tend to have the same diseases making it appear as though it’s genetic when it really is related to health based behavioral choices.”

The disease does not play favorites either.

“Heart disease remains the leading cause of death across the spectrum of race and gender,” he said.

However, it remains the leading cause of death in women, more so than breast

cancer. Women are more likely to develop heart disease later in life than men.

Age is a factor for all, though, as the risk of heart disease increases as people age.

When Davis treats a patient who has had a heart attack or stroke, he encourages cardiac rehabilitation, a program focusing on exercise and education.

He also recommends taking an aspirin a day for patients with

established cardiovascular disease.

“Aspirin is an antiplatelet agent. The interaction of platelets with plaque in our arteries is what leads to a heart attack or stroke. Aspirin makes platelets ‘less sticky’ which reduces the risk of heart attack or stroke,” he said.

However, the benefits are less clear for patients without established cardiovascular disease.

Discuss taking daily aspirin with your doctor before beginning the regimen.

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