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Prioritizing Heart Health: Understanding and Mitigating Risk

Updated: Apr 16

February marks the observance of heart health month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of cardiovascular wellness. Despite many assuming it won't affect them, heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women. But what exactly is heart disease? It occurs when the blood supply to the heart is obstructed, typically due to inflammation within the blood vessels, the accumulation of plaque (often composed of cholesterol or calcium), or the formation of blood clots. Fortunately, there are proactive steps we can take together to maintain heart health and minimize the risk of heart disease. The first step is understanding our individual risk factors. At Olive Health, we continuously monitor our patients' risk factors, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and inflammatory markers. If you've ever experienced elevated cholesterol or high blood pressure, it's crucial to take action to lower these numbers. So, what exactly happens in our bodies when we have high blood pressure or cholesterol? High blood pressure causes increased pressure within the blood vessels, leading to damage or inflammation over time. This damage increases the likelihood of vessel blockages, restricting blood flow to the heart. Elevated cholesterol levels mean that the blood circulating within these vessels contains more fatty cells, which can adhere to the vessel walls, narrowing them and impeding adequate blood flow. Moreover, damaged vessels are more susceptible to the accumulation of fat cells, further exacerbating the risk of blockages. Establishing healthy habits is key to reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as mitigating vessel inflammation. Simple lifestyle changes like incorporating post-meal walks, increasing overall physical activity, opting for healthier food choices, reducing sodium intake, quitting smoking, and ensuring adequate sleep can significantly improve cardiovascular health. Additionally, understanding your family history is vital in assessing your own risk. Inquire about any instances of stroke, heart attack, or coronary artery disease among your relatives. Lastly, consider screening options to detect early signs of coronary artery disease, especially if you have significant risk factors. Screening methods may include cardiac CT scans, stress tests, or angiography. Consult with your healthcare provider to develop a personalized plan based on your unique risk profile. By prioritizing heart health and adopting proactive measures, we can work together to safeguard our cardiovascular well-being and reduce the prevalence of heart disease within our communities.

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