Why your primary care provider is key to your heart health

In addition to providing routine care like annual vaccines and wellness checks, your primary care provider (PCP) can also be your first line of defense against serious illnesses like heart disease. As a cardiologist that specializes in preventive cardiology, I am committed to improving the heart health of patients who have conditions that can lead to heart disease, such as high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, diabetes, overweight and obesity.

Lifestyle choices like physical inactivity, excessive alcohol use, smoking and an unhealthy diet are key contributors that increase the risk for heart disease. Those with a strong family history of heart disease may also be at risk. Fortunately, your primary care physician can help you avoid or manage these conditions.

Nutrition Counseling
Healthy eating is one of the primary ways to prevent heart disease. Your primary care provider can help you manage your diet to meet your nutritional needs and refer you to a dietician for counseling if required.

Monitoring Your Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure (hypertension), you may not have any symptoms. This is why it’s important to monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis at home. Your primary care provider will measure your blood pressure at least once every other year – or more often if you have high blood pressure. Your PCP can also help you improve your lifestyle habits, like reducing sodium intake and increasing physical activity, which can naturally lower blood pressure. Medications can also be prescribed, if required.

Checking Your Cholesterol
Blood cholesterol is a fat-like substance made by the liver that plays an important role in maintaining your body’s daily function (homeostasis). Excess amounts of saturated fats from red meat, butter, cheese and fried foods are bad for the body. Eating these foods regularly can result in narrowing of the heart arteries, which may lead to heart disease. As with high blood pressure, there may be few symptoms of high cholesterol, so you may not know that you have high cholesterol until you suffer a heart attack or stroke. It’s important to work with your primary care provider to keep your cholesterol in check.

Managing Diabetes
Heart disease and diabetes often go hand in hand as high blood sugar can damage the blood vessels as well as several other organs. Diabetes can also lead to heart failure, a serious condition where the heart is unable to pump blood throughout the body. Your PCP can create a personalized care plan for your specific needs.

Weight Management
Being overweight or obese can be strong risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, so maintaining a healthy weight is critical for general health. Your doctor can help develop a personalized plan so that a healthy weight can be attained, with both lifestyle and weight-loss medications.