American Heart Month: What to know about cardiovascular disease

February 23, 2021

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Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. In a typical year, this disease claims about 655,000 American lives. Cardiovascular disease pertains to several conditions that affect the heart and its vessels. The most common of these conditions is coronary artery disease, which develops when the arteries that supply blood to the heart become blocked.

Dr. Roy Chan, board-certified family medicine physician at Adventist Health Physicians Network Tulare Multispecialty, shares important factors and screening information.

Factors

Some major contributing factors of heart disease include:

  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

Other factors may contribute, such as a lack of exercise and chronic stress.

A lot of the healthy lifestyle behaviors that we learned as children also apply in adulthood. They can go a long way in helping fight cardiovascular disease. In fact, one of the greatest predictors of cardiovascular disease in adulthood is childhood obesity.

While the greatest number of heart attacks occur in those over age 65, cardiovascular disease can develop at any age. Many of the factors that will contribute to cardiovascular disease, such as hypertension, will commonly begin to appear in our 30’s.

Screening

To determine risks for cardiovascular disease, providers will conduct the following tests:

  • High cholesterol screening
  • Diabetes screenings
  • Blood pressure screening
  • Obesity monitoring

Some screenings, such as lipid profiles, typically start at age 20 and increase in yearly frequency as the patient ages and their risk factors increase. At age 35 most people are recommended to be screened annually for cardiovascular disease risk factors.

Screening for cardiovascular disease can also be done prior to starting an intense exercise program. Healthy people over age 20 should begin regular cardiovascular risk assessments. Of course, any patient with cardiovascular disease symptoms, such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, unexplained leg swelling, or poor activity tolerance, should be screened for cardiovascular disease.

Recommendations

The sources of cholesterol are what you take in, what you burn and what you make.

What you take in (what you eat)

There is good and bad cholesterol. Reducing bad fat, cholesterol and greasy foods, can lower this. Try substituting low-fat versions of your favorite foods and eating plant-based foods.

What you burn (what you burn off as energy)

This is where regular exercise comes into play. Increasing activity in your daily routine can be playful and fun and involve your family and friends. Adults are recommended to receive 2 ½ hours of moderate intensity exercise or one hour and 15-minutes of vigorous exercise, weekly. It’s also recommended to add muscle strengthening exercises two days a week.

What you make

Our bodies make their own cholesterol for various processes in the body. Cholesterol regulation can also be heavily influenced by genetics. Medications can greatly help offset genetic problems with cholesterol regulation. The other areas can be improved by various lifestyle modifications and medications.

To learn more about cardiovascular disease, recommended screenings and lifestyle modifications, speak with your primary care provider.

If you do not have a primary care provider, Adventist Health can help you find one close to home by visiting www.AdventistHealth.org/central-valley.