Individuals with risk factors for cardiovascular disease, even in the absence of symptoms, should see a cardiologist regularly.
So says Tesfaye Telila, M.D., interventional cardiologist with Piedmont Heart Institute in Newnan, Sharpsburg and Fayetteville.
Some of the risk factors include diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, tobacco use, sedentary lifestyle, a family history of heart disease and sleep apnea. Patients with those risks factors should see a cardiologist regularly, Telila said.
February is National Heart Month, and heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. Nearly half of all U.S. adults have some type of cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. The good news is that most non-congenital heart disease is preventable – or even reversible – through lifestyle changes like diet, regular exercise, stress reduction, and medication, if needed.
“Cardiologists provide comprehensive care for patients with these risk factors, helping patients manage risk factors such as a poor diet, high blood pressure, cholesterol, stress, smoking and obesity,” Telila said. “They also treat a myriad of other heart problems, including, heart rhythm abnormalities, coronary artery disease, heart failure and valvular heart disease.”
Heart disease poses a particular threat to Georgians, as Georgia has the 12th highest death rate from cardiovascular disease in the country, according to Piedmont officials.
One of the common cardiovascular conditions that can be easily managed by a cardiologist is hypertension, also known as high blood pressure (HBP). Usually defined as anything above 140/90 mmHg, hypertension is one of the most undertreated medical conditions in the United States. Damage from hypertension, if left untreated, occurs over time. Hypertension can lead to heart failure, kidney failure, stroke and blindness. Cardiologists can help treat the condition through aggressive lifestyle modifications and medications.
Cardiologists also are especially interested in their patients’ cholesterol levels, as cholesterol can cause plaque buildup in heart arteries that can potentially rupture and cause a heart attack. High cholesterol also can be managed by lifestyle changes and medication.
Medical officials say the best way for patients to prevent heart attacks is by eating well and exercising regularly.
“Being heart healthy is a marathon, not a sprint,” Telila said. “It takes a combination of eating a heart-healthy diet and doing regular aerobic exercise that raises the heart rate for at least 20 to 30 minutes, for at least two to three days a week.”
Heart-healthy diets in general include diets packed with fruits and vegetables, lean meat such as fish and chicken, non-animal or plant-based proteins and foods that have low amounts of fat and salt.
“I say it is a marathon as most cardiovascular problems develop over time and are generally treated, but not entirely cured, as the patient is still at risk for another event. Regular follow-up and continued risk modification is key,” said Telila.
By eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, avoiding excess weight, not smoking, and keeping blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar within a healthy range, patients can significantly reduce their chances of developing a serious heart condition, she said.
For more information or to sign up for women’s heart health screening at Piedmont, visit www.piedmont.org