Today, heart disease remains the leading cause of death for adult men and women in the United States. A heart attack does not play favorites; it affects most racial and ethnic groups in the nation. Despite exhaustive research, close to 660,000 Americans die from heart disease each year; that means that one person dies every 36 seconds. Today, there are nearly 33 million adults who have been diagnosed with heart disease and millions more remain undiagnosed because they have not yet developed symptoms. Of these, nearly 18.4 million have coronary artery disease, which is the major cause of heart attacks. The good news: heart disease, for the most part, can be prevented by addressing the risk factors.
Causes & Risk factors
There are many known causes and risk factors of heart disease and they include the following:
- Smoking is probably the number one risk factor
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Family history of heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High levels of cholesterol
- Unhealthy diet
- Lack of exercise
- High blood sugar levels
So how can one prevent heart disease?
We are fortunate today in that there are several established heart programs, including Dr. Juan Rivera’s Healthy Heart Program, that can help mitigate the risks of heart disease by offering comprehensive services. Those services include the following:
- Screening to assess risk factors
- Reversing risk factors
- Advocating healthy lifestyle
A critical aspect of preventing and lowering the risk of heart disease, especially coronary artery disease, is by enrolling in a heart program, such as Dr. Rivera’s Healthy Heart Program, that encourages healthy behaviors and screens individuals for risk factors. In many cases, screening tests can reveal abnormalities in the blood and the heart. Dr. Juan Rivera’s screening program involves evaluation of the following:
- Quality of diet
- Amount of physical activity
- Body mass index
- Blood pressure
- Blood glucose levels
- Total blood cholesterol
Once baseline levels of the above parameters are obtained, the patient is enrolled in a preventive program and the parameters are monitored over time. For example, if the individual is obese, he or she may be enrolled in an exercise and dietary program. If the patient has high levels of glucose, he may be enrolled in a dietary and/or exercise program and followed closely by a diabetic specialist to determine if the levels are coming down.
Dr. Rivera’s screening program starts at around age 40, depending on the risk factors, and, similarly, the follow-up depends on causes and level of risk.
Dr. Juan Rivera’s program does go one step further and he usually obtains additional testing that specifically evaluates the heart. These additional tests are commonly done in patients with a past medical history that includes the following:
- Heart failure
- Heart attack
- Abnormal heart rhythm, like atrial fibrillation
- High blood pressure
- Those with a family history of heart disease
Additional tests can include the following:
- Regular blood pressure monitoring is done. Patients are also asked to measure their blood pressure at home and monthly checks are done in the office.
- An electrocardiogram (ECG) is performed to assess the heart rate and rhythm. This is usually done every year. It can also provide evidence for a prior heart attack.
- A chest x-ray is useful when assessing patients with heart failure.
- Fasting levels of cholesterol.
- Fasting levels of blood glucose.
- Regular measurement of body weight.
- An echocardiogram (imaging test) is performed to assess the heart function and assess the function of the valves.
- Stress test to determine the health of the heart.
- Calcium score using a CT scan to assess the coronary vessels.
Education and lifestyle changes
Dr. Juan Rivera’s Healthy Heart Program emphasizes heavily on lifestyle changes to lower the risk factors for a heart attack. The lifestyle changes can include the following:
- Participate in some type of exercise program. Dr. Rivera’s program also has formal exercise rehabilitation for patients recovering from heart attacks. Any exercise is better than no exercise and it has to be regular and consistent. Walking, swimming, cycling, or light aerobics are recommended.
- Discontinue smoking. There are no smoking cessation aids that work reliably and cold turkey appears to be the best approach. Be determined to improve your health.
- Limit intake of alcohol.
- Eat a healthy diet. Dr. Rivera’s program recommends a consultation with a dietitian to assist with your menu and what foods you can eat.
- Get in the habit of checking your blood pressure and blood glucose at home. Today, there are many apps that can store the data and can be forwarded to the healthcare provider for you.
- Remain compliant with medications to treat blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes.
- Follow up with your healthcare provider regularly.
Dr. Juan Rivera takes a holistic approach to the prevention of heart disease. He offers not only screening tests but encourages positive lifestyle changes to reduce the risk factors for heart disease. The most important aspect of his program is patient education. The more you become aware of heart disease and its complications, the more you will realize that you need to take active steps to prevent a heart attack. Dr. Rivera’s Healthy Heart Program has had a major impact on the lives of many patients, leading to an improved quality of life with better outcomes. Call Dr. Juan Rivera at Cano Health today to get started on your heart disease risk assessment.