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Three Simple Tips to Help Prevent Heart Disease

Heart and blood vessel disease, more commonly known as heart disease, is a category of illnesses that prevent the heart from fully performing its duty: transporting oxygen and nutrients throughout our body via the blood.

The most common forms of heart disease occur when the arteries that carry the blood are narrowed due to plaque build-up, stopping blood flow and triggering a heart attack or stroke.

Changing the Trend

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one person dies from heart disease every 37 seconds in the United States, but a new generation of informed patients is poised to change that trend.

Most heart attacks occur in middle age, but Michael J. Zakrzewski, DO, FACC, a physician specializing in cardiology at Abington - Lansdale Hospital, says he’s seeing more patients under the age of 40 take an active interest in their heart health.

“We’re seeing younger folks paying closer attention to their blood pressure and learning from past generations’ mistakes,” said Dr. Zakrzewski. “More people under the age of 40 are paying attention to prevention techniques so what happened to mom or dad won’t happen to them.”

Dr. Zakrzewski offers some simple tips for how you can help prevent heart disease.

Tip 1: Know Your History

“Though heart health is greatly impacted by lifestyle factors like diet and exercise, predisposition to heart disease is hereditary,” said Dr. Zakrzewski.

That means if your parents, grandparents or other close relatives experienced heart conditions, you may be living at a higher risk.

For example, if you’re 36 years old and your father had a heart attack at age 58, you should definitely take stock and review your health.

Tip 2: Set Good Habits

“It’s always about lifestyle. That’s the most important. Following a heart-healthy diet, staying active and being aware of your blood pressure - also, you should never, never smoke cigarettes or electronic cigarettes, which are just as bad for the heart and lungs," said Dr. Zakrzewski.

Your doctor is available to help you change these habits. Check in regularly, starting with your primary care provider. Ask, “What can I do, and what can I do better?” All physicians are aware of the recommended guidelines for prevention and can help you get on the right track.

Tip 3: Get Involved, Stay Informed

“At one time we were limited to reactionary treatments and repairing the damage after someone had a heart attack. Today there’s more awareness and information available to prevent issues before they arise,” said Dr. Zakrzewski.

Start by keeping an eye on the “big five”: cholesterol, diabetes status, blood pressure, tobacco use and family history of premature coronary disease.

Blood pressure might be one of the easiest. It’s pretty simple to have your blood pressure screened, whether at the drugstore, a department store, or wherever there is a blood pressure system installed. There are even at-home devices.

Knowing your numbers—and what they should be—is so important. For example, your cholesterol should be under 200, and your top blood pressure number should be under 130 while the bottom number should be under 80.

“I love to see people in their 20s and 30s taking an interest, but remember women have a higher risk after menopause, and men tend to tick up a bit earlier—in their 40s or 50s,” said Dr. Zakrzewski.

The great thing is that there are plenty of resources and information available. Knowing your risk factors and staying informed is one of the simplest ways to take action and keep your heart healthy.

Abington Heart and Vascular Institute - Jefferson Health offers preventative services, quality care and expert treatment for a variety of heart conditions.

To learn more, visit JeffersonHealth.org/AbingtonHeart.

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