Managing Your Cardiovascular Risks

As a physician and board member of the National Lipid Association, I’m confronted every day with the reality that cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in this country. This stark fact is challenging for me to accept because there are a few simple steps people can take to better understand their risk of heart attack and stroke. Once they are better informed, they can have the appropriate conversations with their healthcare providers about which preventive measures will best safeguard their cardiovascular health.

For many people I see in my office, step one in managing their risk is establishing a foundation of education—which means it’s important for healthcare providers and patients to talk frankly about the facts surrounding cardiovascular disease. This conversation should be only the first in an ongoing dialogue between patient and provider.

lipidsWhile many people certainly know about heart attacks and strokes, and likely have been confronted personally in their life with a loved one suffering from one of these events, many people don’t understand or acknowledge their own risk factors (including exercise, diet, weight and smoking).

A person’s cholesterol profile is one benchmark of overall heart health and can help a healthcare provider determine what steps will best protect that patient’s cardiovascular system. When helping patients establish a cholesterol goal, many providers will outline dietary recommendations, chart an exercise regimen and, sometimes, prescribe medication. Once you know your provider’s recommendations for you, do your best to follow the prescribed course of action and chronicle the steps you are taking, so that you can report back during your next visit.

The bottom line is this: If you eat healthy, exercise regularly and take any prescribed medications as recommended, you are less likely to have a cardiovascular event. Your healthcare provider can help you incorporate these lifestyle changes into your daily routine; they’re relatively simple, but they can make a big difference in terms of your heart health. I encourage you to get informed and take steps today to best manage your risk factors.

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Dr. James Underberg

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Dr. James Underberg, M.D., is a clinical assistant professor of medicine and clinical lipidologist at New York University Medical School and the NYU Center for Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease. He is also a member of the board of directors of the National Lipid Association.
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