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Cardiovascular disease ranks as number one killer, claiming the lives of more than 40% of those who die each year.
What does this mean to you? What can you do to protect your health? Here are answers to frequently asked questions about cardiovascular disease.
What exactly is cardiovascular disease, and what are the risk factors?
The term cardiovascular disease covers both heart and blood vessel disorders. To prevent these diseases, you must understand and be willing to modify the risk factors for them. These include:
- Cigarette smoking.
- High blood cholesterol.
- High blood pressure.
- Lack of exercise.
What can I do to prevent heart disease?
First of all, don’t smoke! Quit smoking on your own or with the support of a physician. Ask your doctor to screen you regularly for cardiovascular risk factors, such as diabetes and hypertension. Cut cholesterol, trim the fat from your diet, exercise and maintain a healthy weight. It’s best to understand risk factors now so you can avoid cardiovascular disease 20, 30 or 40 years down the road. Prevention is better than waiting for the warning signs of heart disease that happen after damage already has been done.
If I’m concerned about my risk for heart disease, when should I see a doctor?
No matter what your age, you should talk with a cardiologist if you’re concerned about heart disease or feel uncomfortable about your family history. Tell your doctor about any family history of high cholesterol, heart attacks in immediate family members at young ages, enlarged heart or congestive heart failure. Remember, the earliest symptoms of heart disease may not be chest pain. They may be fatigue or shortness of breath.
If someone in my family has heart disease, what are some of the things I can do to protect myself?
Talk to your doctor. He or she should evaluate your family history and lifestyle. You might receive counseling on improving your diet and making exercise a regular part of your life. If your cholesterol levels are high, your physician may recommend medications to help lower cholesterol and decrease your risk of a first heart attack. In addition, some people may benefit from an ultra fast CT, which may be helpful in assessing people at higher risk who require a more aggressive approach to prevention.
What levels of exercise are considered best to help prevent heart disease?
Aerobic activity, such as swimming, brisk walking, running or biking, strengthens the heart. Cardiovascular disease ranks as number one killer, claiming the lives of more than 40% of those who die each year. So do regular exercise and a balanced diet.