When it comes to heart disease, prevention is the best medicine.
"The more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing coronary artery disease. But, the good news is that 80 percent of heart disease is preventable. You can prevent or delay heart disease by beginning today to adopt a heart healthy lifestyle,” said Dr. Quinn Pack of Baystate Medical Center’s Heart & Vascular Program.
February is American Heart Month, and the perfect time to work closely with your physician to modify your risk factors through lifestyle changes, and when those aren’t enough, by taking medications prescribed by your doctor to help control your risks.
Impact of Women's Lifestyle Changes
Just in time for American Heart Month, the American College of Cardiology has published a study which reinforces what most doctors already know – a healthy lifestyle may prevent heart disease in nearly three out of four women.
The study, published in January, followed nearly 70,000 women for two decades.
It concluded that three-quarters of heart attacks in young women could be prevented if they followed six healthy lifestyle practices:
- No smoking
- A normal body mass index (weight)
- Physical activity of at least 2.5 hours per week
- Watching seven or fewer hours of television a week
- Consuming no more than one alcoholic drink per day on average
- A healthy diet
Impact of Men's Lifestyle Changes
Dr. Pack, who specializes in preventive cardiology, completed a two-year Preventive Cardiology Fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
"My interests are in high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, physical inactivity, smoking, obesity and diabetes. Those are the six big ones to control," he said, referring to the risk factors he most often addresses with patients, both men and women.
So, while the study addresses women and heart disease, where does that leave men?
"While this study was limited to women, I expect that the findings probably hold true for men as well. In other words, if men follow these healthy lifestyle practices, I would expect that their chances of developing heart disease would decrease dramatically. Remember, up to 80% of heart disease is preventable," Dr. Pack said.
While there is a strong genetic predisposition to heart disease in some families, Dr. Pack noted that doesn’t automatically mean that other family members will get it.
"While there really isn’t anything patients can do about genetics, it’s still important to know your family medical history. If your father died at age 40 from a heart attack, for example, as doctors we will want to evaluate and treat your risks more aggressively, as soon as possible," he said.