Take heart: you can control many cardiac health risk factors - Primary Health

Take heart: you can control many cardiac health risk factors

  • February 13, 2024

  • Adi Chandrasekhar, MD, MPH, FACP

  • 3 minutes

Lifestyle changes in diet and physical activity and preventative screenings can help to reduce heart disease risk.

February marks American Heart Month, though arguably every month ought to be dedicated to cardiac health given its outsized impact on our healthcare. Heart disease (also called cardiovascular disease) is the leading cause of death facing Americans regardless of gender or race/ethnicity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that one in five deaths in 2021 could be attributed to heart disease, accounting for a whopping 695,000 deaths that year alone. Between 2018 to 2019 they estimate that cardiovascular disease cost the American healthcare system an eye-popping figure of $239.9 billion.

The rising rates of heart disease in recent decades can be attributed to multiple causes. Age is a big risk factor for heart disease; as Americans live longer, this condition will become more common. But aside from an aging population, there are other factors at play. Americans are also on average heavier and less physically active in recent years, which adds to risk for heart disease. Poor diets, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, use of alcohol and tobacco, and family history are all also associated with increased risk for heart disease. 

Manage risk factors

While risk factors like age and family history cannot be changed, many other risk factors can indeed be dealt with proactively. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has issued several high grade recommendations targeting these risk factors. They recommend counseling around a healthy diet and regular physical activity to adults at risk of heart disease. The task force also recommends that all people over age 18 get a blood pressure check in the office to screen for elevated blood pressure. If detected, this allows for early interventions to lower the blood pressure.

USPSTF also recommends screening kids over age 6 for obesity and referral to treatment if noted to be an area of concern. This recommendation is also mirrored for adults with obesity. Optimizing weight to a healthy range can help reduce risk for heart disease. They also recommend testing for diabetes and pre-diabetes in adults between ages of 35 and 70 who are overweight or obese. The USPSTF recommends all adults discuss their tobacco use with their providers to discuss smoking cessation and use of FDA-approved medications for it. For adults at high risk of heart disease, they also recommend discussing with their provider about getting started on cholesterol-reducing medications called statins. This is based on calculating their ten-year risk for having a serious outcome like heart attack using existing data. 

To summarize, while preventing heart disease might seem like an uphill battle, there are in fact many interventions you should plan to discuss with your provider. Primary.Health powers testing and preventative screenings for heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions, as well as a host of respiratory and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Learn how our testing and vaccination programs at scale deliver healthcare beyond clinic walls to help keep your people healthy.

Disclaimer: This blog content and linked materials are not intended as individual medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should not be considered as such. Any readers with medical concerns should contact a licensed healthcare provider. This blog is provided for informational purposes only.

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