A healthy diet. Regular exercise. A stress-busting ritual. You have heard all about heart disease prevention, but do you know why prevention is so crucial? Piedmont Heart Institute cardiologists Robi Goswami, M.D., and Raul Blanco, M.D., share the top ways heart disease can change your life.
“Heart disease leads to a significant number of other illnesses and a weakened heart, which can then lead to heart failure,” says Dr. Blanco.
It also increases your risk for serious heart events in the future.
“As soon as you have heart disease, you have a higher risk of dying and a 20 percent chance of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years.”
“It’s not like an infection where you can just take a pill and be cured,” explains Dr. Goswami. “You will carry it with you for the rest of your life.”
For patients who have had a heart attack or have heart disease, most will take a cocktail of medications.
“For 90 percent of patients, heart medication is tolerable,” explains Dr. Blanco. “However, certain patients have a genetic predisposition to not tolerate the medications well.”
Blood thinners can lead to bruising, blood pressure medication can cause lightheadedness, beta blockers can lead to fatigue and statins can cause muscle pain in some individuals. Medications can also be expensive and may require multiple trips to the doctor and pharmacy for refills.
Keep in mind that not every patient will experience side effects – and the medications are often necessary and lifesaving.
“Patients who have had a heart event and take these medications live much longer than those who don’t,” says Dr. Goswami.
Some heart disease patients experience chronic chest pain, or angina.
“We help them understand what is tolerable and what is dangerous,” says Dr. Goswami.
Heart disease (especially if it leads to heart failure) and medications can leave you tired, weak, short of breath, lightheaded and/or dizzy.
“Heart disease can decrease your ability to exert yourself and do the things you like to do,” says Dr. Blanco.
“Heart disease is still the number one killer in the developed world,” says Dr. Blanco. “We need to keep a focus on research, education and prevention.”
If you have already been diagnosed with heart disease, don’t despair.
“It’s all about managing the illness,” says Dr. Goswami. “I tell my patients: You can manage heart disease – don’t let it manage you. Ideally, we can prevent all of this before heart disease occurs.”
To learn more about heart disease prevention and treatment, visit Piedmont Heart Institute.