Heart Disease (cont.)

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Modifying risk factors for heart disease

While patients cannot choose their family and alter their genetic predisposition to coronary artery disease, the rest of the risk factors are under control of the patient. Keeping blood pressure, cholesterol and other lipid levels, and diabetes under control needs to become a lifelong goal. Smoking cessation is essential.

There are new guidelines developed by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology to help decrease the risk of developing heart disease. Since it takes 10 to 15 years from the first beginnings of a plaque to the point where it might obstruct one of the heart blood vessels, there is opportunity to decrease that risk.

Aside from focusing on diet, weight reduction, and exercise, the two organizations have provided new indications for prescribing cholesterol-lowering medications called statins. Previously, statins were prescribed for patients who had suffered heart attacks and the goal was to lower blood cholesterol levels to a specific number. There are now more patients who may benefit from statin medications, including those with high LDL cholesterol levels, those with type 2 diabetes, and those with a 10-year heart disease risk of greater than 7.5%. This risk may be calculated from age, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels with the American Heart Association's CV Risk Calculator.

In addition, the goal for blood cholesterol is no longer a specific number. Instead, for those at high risk of heart disease, statin medications will be prescribed to lower cholesterol levels by 50% and for those with a lower risk the goal is to lower cholesterol levels by 30% to 50%.

As with many aspects of preventive medicine, the patient and health care professional will act as a team to achieve the best results. Minimizing risk for heart disease will also decrease the risk for stroke and peripheral artery disease. Keep in mind that these are very new recommendations and will be integrated with current guidelines. Do not make any medication changes without discussing first with your physician.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/22/2014

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Heart Disease - Diagnosis Question: Have you been diagnosed with a type of heart disease? If so, what was the diagnosis and treatment.
Heart Disease - Risk Factors Question: What are/were your risk factors for developing heart disease?
Heart Disease - Symptoms Question: Describe the symptoms associated with your heart disease.
Heart Disease - Tests Question: Please describe the exams and tests you received that led to a diagnosis of heart disease.
Heart Disease - Prevention Question: If you have or are at risk for heart disease, how do you try to prevent a heart attack?
Heart Disease - Medications Question: What medications and/or supplements do you take to prevent heart disease?
Heart Disease - Angioplasty Question: Please share your experience with angioplasty, stenting, or heart surgery.