Best Steps for Preventing Heart Disease

Dr. James Grant

| 3 min read

James D. Grant, M.D. is senior vice president and chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Dr. Grant is a native Michiganian and graduate of Wayne State University School of Medicine. He completed his post graduate training at Northwestern University Medical Center in Chicago. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Anesthesiology, completed his recertification in 2008 and is an associate examiner for the Board.

Can heart disease be prevented? Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, for both men and women. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one person dies from cardiovascular disease every 33 seconds in the U.S. 
The biggest risk factors for heart disease can usually be controlled through a healthy lifestyle; however, some risk factors for heart disease cannot be controlled. Individuals who have a family history of heart disease are at higher risk of developing it themselves. In addition, the risk for heart disease increases with age.
However, with lifestyle changes and healthy habits, it is estimated that the majority of heart disease can be prevented. 
Dr. James Grant

Five habits to adopt

Here are five healthy habits to control risk factors for heart disease:
  1. Maintain a nutritious diet. Following a balanced diet does not need to be restrictive. It includes consuming a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, poultry, whole grains and vegetable-based oils. Eat processed meat, red meat and refined carbohydrates in moderation. Limit consumption of alcohol and highly processed foods, as well as foods with added sugar, sodium and trans-fat.
  2. Include physical activity regularly. Keeping the body moving provides many health benefits in addition to heart health. Regular physical activity helps to lower risks for diabetes, stroke and osteoporosis, and can improve balance, mood and cognitive function. Even light to moderate physical activity provides benefits. Talk with a health care provider before beginning any new exercise routine.
  3. Avoid or stop smoking. Smoking tobacco is harmful to one’s health. It greatly increases the risk of developing narrowed arteries, which restrict blood flow. Research shows that those who stop smoking greatly reduce their risk of developing heart disease.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight adds stress to the body and can contribute to high cholesterol and high blood pressure, all of which increase the risk of developing heart disease. The body mass index (BMI) uses one’s height and weight to determine if a person is overweight or obese. While not a complete measure of one’s health, it is a helpful tool to use as part of a comprehensive physical exam.
  5. Manage chronic conditions. Chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can increase one’s risk of developing heart disease. Keeping these conditions under control is essential for overall health. Take any medications as prescribed. Keep up with doctor appointments, including any recommended screening tests that help to identify risk factors such as blood glucose or cholesterol tests.
Heart disease is prevalent in America. In 2015, roughly 41.5% of the U.S. population had some form of heart condition. The American Heart Association estimates that by 2035, heart disease in the U.S. will cost $1.1 trillion. And yet, the majority of heart disease can be prevented through lifestyle choices and healthy habits.
Individuals should talk with a health professional to determine their risks of heart disease and develop a prevention plan.
James D. Grant, M.D., is senior vice president and chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

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