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Cardiovascular Health

A Heart Expert’s 4 Steps for Disease Prevention

Photo: Courtesy of Arek Adeoye

Our medical knowledge and arsenal of treatments is increasing exponentially every day, yet heart disease continues to be a major health risk in the United States. If patients are proactive, however, this may no longer be the case.

We sat down with Dr. Salim Virani, chair of the American College of Cardiology’s Prevention Section, for some specialist advice. Here are his four important tips:

1. Find out your risks

“We know that heart disease starts pretty much in the first decade of life,” Dr. Virani explains. “The most important thing is to talk about cardiovascular health as a family affair.”

The American Heart Association (AHA) has a risk calculator, validated by many studies, that can easily compute your cardiovascular risks. This includes things like family history or high cholesterol and blood pressure. If you’re not sure of those things, that’s a great reason to take tip number two to heart.

2. Go for regular physicals

Unfortunately, this is one of the most neglected health routines for many of us, who tend to only see the doctor when we’re feeling sick.

“The reason that one should have an annual physical is to talk about these major killers,” Dr. Virani says. “These diseases are very much preventable. Risk factors can be identified quite early on.”

It’s best to see your doctor with a list of questions, so you can use your time most effectively. Doctors can’t know what they’re dealing with if you don’t let them know what concerns you’re having.

3. Find expert resources

It’s easy to say eat healthier and exercise, but it’s hard to put into action if you don’t know what to do.

“The AHA also has a very nice website that compiles basic concepts related to diet and exercise, how to read labels, what kinds of foods should you eat if you want to get into exercise, etc.”

If you’re well-informed, changing your lifestyle doesn’t have to be overwhelming — even if you think you don’t have time.

4. Get out of your chair

When it comes to exercise, anything is better than nothing, and everyone can find a few minutes in their day.

“The recommendation is one hour and 15 minutes of physical activity every week,” says Dr. Virani. “But even increasing the physical activity beyond where you currently are can reduce your risk.”

The biggest issue in our culture right now is sedentary behavior. If you can walk while you take that phone call, or walk a little farther to your car, you can get 15-20 minutes a day. If you work five days a week, you’ll reach an hour and 15 minutes in no time.

Another reminder: Don’t forget to ask your doctor why these things are important during your regular physical. It’s much easier to stick with a new regimen if you know why you’re doing it.

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