Cardiologists, more than many other specialists, rely on a team—nurses, other physicians including other types of cardiologists, pharmacists and physical therapists—to ensure that their patients receive the best possible care. As the patient, you are the member of the team who has the unique ability to take control of their heart health and choose to live well with heart disease.

Getting on track

How do you put “living well” with heart disease into practice? You should learn about your condition and work with your doctor to understand it. You should follow through on your doctor’s instructions for medication and follow up, and you should eat well and exercise. Today there are also new tools in the form of apps and new medications that can help.

Educating yourself about your condition is an important first step. Ask questions of the heart team; and for advice and inspiration, seek out other patients who have learned to manage their conditions. Make sure you understand your treatment plan, and be the strongest advocate for your health.

Vim, vigor and tech

Diet and exercise will likely be part of your doctor’s plan. Healthy diet and regular physical activity are not just for preventing heart disease; cardiologists recommend both as tools for reversing heart disease. Research has shown that cardiac rehabilitation after a heart attack can reduce risk of death and better quality of life. Diet and exercise can also help you lose weight and lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Technology is rapidly changing how patients manage their own care. We’ve seen a rise in wearable technologies that allow people to track things like their heart rate, steps taken and sleep. As this technology evolves, patients may be able to incorporate these devices into their care plans and share data with their doctors.

Medications

Several new drugs are also entering the market, including the highly anticipated PCSK9 inhibitors, which have been shown to reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol in patients who have specific conditions or don’t respond to other treatments.

Today, more than ever before, there are options for heart disease patients looking to live full and healthy lives with their heart disease. Your cardiologist wants to work with you to improve your heart health, but a lot has to be done outside of the doctor’s office. The lifestyle choices you make today and every day do matter, and I encourage everyone living with heart disease to adopt the best possible lifestyle that they can.

Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States and it has been the leading cause of death in this country since the 1920s. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease causes 1 out of every 4 deaths. These numbers are too high for a disease that can be managed, controlled and even prevented in many of cases with medication and lifestyle choices.