Five simple ways to reduce heart attack risk: Interview with Dr. Christian Heesch

Dietary and lifestyle advice seems overwhelming and conflicting. We recently interviewed Dr. Christian Heesch, a board certified cardiologist and internist, and asked about simple ways to lower our risk of ever becoming a cardiac patient.

“Successful prevention has five important elements”, Dr. Christian Heesch told us. “These elements are the avoidance of bad habits such as smoking or drug use, the avoidance of excessive psychosocial stress, a healthy diet, healthy exercise habits, and the effective management of chronic conditions that put us at risk of heart disease.”

“While rates of smoking have decreased in this country”, Dr. Christian Heesch said, “drug use seems on the rise in many areas. Illicit drugs, including but not confined to cocaine, can cause irreparable harm to the heart. If you can’t quit on your own, you need to seek professional help. Not doing any harm to your own health should be the priority before anything else.”

“Stress is an important risk factor for chronic health problems, including heart disease”, Dr. Christian Heesch continued. “Reducing stress may involve lifestyle changes on multiple levels. One of the strategies to reduce stress may be regular aerobic exercise.”

“Diet is of obvious importance, and it needs to be a sustained effort to be helpful. A heart healthy diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, nuts, saltwater fish, and very little in terms of meats. Special rules apply to pregnant women, who should check with their nurse or doctor what changes they may have to make.”

“Exercise is important. It helps control weight problems, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve our lipid profile, and it may also help control blood sugar in certain types of diabetes”, Dr. Christian Heesch added. “Obviously, those who are elderly or have underlying chronic conditions should check with their physician before beginning a vigorous exercise program.”

“Lastly, apart from lifestyle changes, medications may be part of the overall strategy”, Dr. Christian Heesch said in conclusion. Medications may be needed to help control blood pressure, lipid levels, and diabetes. Talk to your primary care provider to see if medications should be part of your overall risk prevention strategy.”