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Guest Column: Heart disease: Prevention is worth a pound of cure

February 10, 2010

By Dr. Jonathan Taylor

Northern Illinois Medical Group

As some of you may already know, February is Heart Health Month. Conditions related to heart health include stroke, heart attacks, heart failure, hypertension, peripheral artery disease, diabetes and high cholesterol. Some of these conditions have no warning signs, and can go undiagnosed for years.

Strokes and heart attacks can occur with no warning, and are often fatal. We need to prevent these things from happening rather than waiting to take action after they happen.

Many factors contribute to heart disease, including obesity, high blood sugar, smoking, inadequate exercise and poor diet. By changing our lifestyles to avoid these factors, we can prevent the onset of heart disease.

The American Heart Association has issued guidelines for heart disease prevention. To make it as easy as possible to understand, they have reduced their advice to seven basic steps:

1) Get active

2) Eat better

3) Lose weight

4) Stop smoking

5) Control cholesterol

6) Manage blood pressure

7) Reduce blood sugar

While these are good advice for a typicalpatient who would be at risk for heart disease, they are slightly oversimplified. I wholeheartedly agree with the advice to get active, eat better and stop smoking. In my experience, most patients donít get enough exercise, and almost everyone has room for at least some improvement in their diet.

Sometimes patients will need advice as to what would be the best way for them to improve their diet, and I will discuss their current diet with them and give them advice to help them set goals for a healthier diet. Everyone who smokes should stop. Smoking is harmful not only to you but to those around you as well.

While obesity is on the rise in our country at an alarming rate and obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease and related conditions, not all patients with heart disease are overweight. If your blood sugar is too high, that also puts you at risk for diabetes and heart disease, but not everyone has high blood sugar. Managing your blood pressure and controlling your cholesterol are always a good idea, so speak with your doctor and find out whether your cholesterol (and triglycerides, HDL and LDL cholesterol) and your blood pressure values are in the optimal range for you.

Everyone should find out if they are at risk for heart disease and make lifestyle changes that will help to reduce the risk as much as possible. In our clinic, we perform functional testings for health issues. For example, measuring not only cholesterol levels, but also the types and sizes of cholesterol particles. We look at the whole body at once, and not just one problem at a time. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Dr. Jonathan Taylor of Northern Illinois Medical Group, 5301E. StateSt., Suite 101, Rockford, IL 61108, can be reached by phone at (815) 397-8500 or e-mail at drtaylor@nimedgroup.com, or visit www.nimedgroup.com.

From the Feb. 10-16, 2010 issue

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