Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 02/07/2021 --Cardiovascular disease the No. 1 killer in the world today, and yet if you consider what most people are doing to keep heart disease at bay, their actions indicate the answer is "not much" or "not enough."
"I think we have become numb to it," Blake Gardner, MD, structural heart cardiologist at Intermountain St. George Hospital, said of the attitude some people take when it comes to proper heart health. "You look at the big scary monster that is COVID-19 out there and there are still far more people dying from heart disease than from COVID, even during the COVID surge."
The number of COVID-19 deaths in America is a reminder that infectious diseases used to be the country's leading cause of death. But with sufficient healthcare, such as in America, people tend to live long enough for heart disease and cancer to happen.
"We live in an excess of comfort," Dr. Gardner said. "Sometimes those indulgences that allow us to live in comfort are not good for our heart."
Heart disease, which can lead to heart attack and stroke, is so prevalent that it's difficult to find anyone who hasn't been touched by it. Unlike infectious diseases, heart disease will find you wherever you are.
"You can't run from it," Dr. Gardner said. "It can take your life faster than anything we know of, other than some sort of trauma."
While it's true you cannot run from heart disease, running — or anything that elevates your heart rate — is one of the steps to take to help prevent it. The other, arguably more important, element of prevention is diet.
"Diet is 90-plus percent of the equation," Dr. Gardner said. "You don't have to eat a bland, boring diet, but moderation is the key in reducing your heart risks."
Although it takes time to adjust, Dr. Gardner said people can retrain their bodies to feel full after smaller amounts of food. He also suggests adopting a diet more in line with the Mediterranean diet, which promotes eating more vegetables, fruits, legumes and fish, along with less red meat, less processed sugars and fewer refined grains.
"Ideally it would be nice if everyone in the country had an opportunity to sit down with a nutritionist and talk about the importance of what, when and how much they're putting into their bodies," Dr. Gardner said.
Even if a regular visit with a nutritionist is not possible for you, Dr. Gardner said it is paramount to establish a good relationship with your primary care physician and comply with their advice.
"Primary care physicians are on the front line with people to help prevent problems," Dr. Gardner said.
The most effective time to prevent heart disease actually begins in childhood, with some studies showing the impact of childhood dietary habits playing out seven or eight decades later, Dr. Gardner said.
However, even in adulthood it is not too late to undo the damage, if people are willing.
"When someone comes in after a massive heart attack and we snatch them from the brink of death, there is often some motivation to make changes," Dr. Gardner said. "Prior to that, people don't seem to pay as much attention."
Dr. Gardner said the four main prevention tips are:
1. smoking cessation
2. eating healthy
4. and regular visits with a primary care physician
From there, doctors can discuss the possibilities of medications to minimize or stabilize arterial plaque that may have developed over years.
"Some disease processes are going to come no matter what, but portions of heart health are not necessarily like that," Dr. Gardner said. "So much can be done with basic prevention."
For more information on heart health, please see the Intermountain Heart Institute web page or talk to your doctor.
About St. George Regional Hospital
St. George Regional Hospital is part of Intermountain Healthcare, a not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs.