The information we have on preventing heart disease is boundless, yet it still responsible for one in every four deaths. How can this be? Despite having abundant information, our guidelines for using that information is quite inconsistent. For example, the risk factors for someone who hasn’t already had a heart attack are diverse, making it challenging to identify how and when to educate someone who might be at risk. So, how can you be sure you’re following the right guidelines?
The truth is, the guidelines are different for everyone. Your own habits and history define your risk of heart disease. However, here are a few of the biggest arguments:
- Aspirin – According to the FDA, the intestinal bleeding and stomach problems that might occur in individuals who don’t already have heart disease make aspirin too risky to be an option to prevent heart attacks. On the other hand, the AHA and ACC believe that the benefit of preventing the first heart attack outweighs the risk of bleeding strokes. These organizations advise patients at higher risk of heart issues to use low-dose aspirin preventatively.
- Blood Pressure – We are all aware that hypertension puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. However, there is argument over adding anti-hypertensive medications to existing care programs in order to bring blood pressure levels below the recommended 140-90 mm Hg. Researchers have found that patients who are able to bring blood pressure this low can reduce their risk of early death from heart disease as well as all other causes. Primary care doctors are less likely to recommend this route as too low blood pressure can lead to fainting, dizziness, and falls.
What they do agree on:
Keep blood pressure under control – Avoid a salty diet and exercise regularly to maintain normal blood pressure levels.
Don’t smoke – Smoking puts you at higher risk for coronary heart disease and also decreases your tolerance for exercise.
Keep cholesterol low – Make sure you know your good fats from bad fats to keep your blood pressure as low as possible. Consider statins to treat high blood pressure.
For more on heart disease guidelines, see this article from Time.