How to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke: excerpts of an interview with Christian Heesch

We recently discussed with Christian Heesch, internist and cardiovascular specialist, ways to reduce the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke later in life. Here is the essence of what we were told:

“Risk factor modification to reduce the chance of a heart attack or stroke later in life should begin as early as possible”, Christian Heesch told us. “In fact, a healthy diet, and healthy exercise habits will benefit not only the heart, my well prevent multiple other conditions that are caused or exacerbated by lack of exercise and the typical American diet.”

“Exercise should be aerobic exercise to be helpful for cardiovascular risk reduction. Exercising four to five times a week, 45 minutes at a time, is quite helpful in that regard. Obviously, those who are elderly and those who have chronic health conditions should check with their physicians whether they can begin an exercise program. In certain situations, a stress test might be advisable before any vigorous exercise program is begun”, Christian Heesch continued.

“Dietary efforts are helpful if they are maintained long term. Too many of us make enthusiastic changes to our diets that last only a few days, with subsequent resumption of a typical American diet. If our efforts are not sustained, they are unlikely to provide much benefit”, Christian Heesch told us. “Fruits and vegetable should be the basis of any health conscious diet, with very little meat consumption. Processed foods are often problematic. Fish, especially salt water fish, three to four times a week, is an excellent addition”, Christian Heesch pointed out. “Further, it is important to note that special dietary requirements apply to pregnant women, so, they should check with their physicians to see what dietary modifications they may have to make. “

“Blood pressure problems, obesity, and diabetes need to be under adequate control. While exercise and dietary modifications are important, medication can also be helpful, especially if cholesterol problems are part of the picture”, Christian Heesch added. “Once again, the personal physician that is aware of our individual medical background is the right person to advise us what changes in our medical regimen may have to be made to keep our overall risk of heart attack and stroke as low as possible. Prevention is better than treatment, but for it to be successful, it needs to start early, and be a sustained effort”, Christian Heesch concluded.