Lifestyle changes and early identification are key to preventing heart disease

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The State-Journal Register ran a front page article on August 26th entitled Drugs, technology reduce deaths from heart disease.  I found it interesting that the focus was on care and treatment after an event, rather than on preventative care, and sent the following letter to the editor (published September 1):

Your Tuesday, August 26 front page article spotlights the role of drugs and technology in reducing heart attack deaths and disability. Outcomes have improved for symptomatic heart disease. The article acknowledged the benefit of lifestyle improvements but understates their importance and benefit.

In my internal medicine practice, I see patients with varying degrees of vascular disease. Most have no symptoms. In each case, awareness of risk and noninvasive affordable testing can detect the disease, motivate change in lifestyle and enable assessment of the effect of changes in therapy much earlier than ever before.

Without such information, we might just be treating risk factors without impacting the disease itself.

High cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes and smoking are well-known risks for heart attack and stroke. But we can do much more about the other root causes like arterial inflammation, insulin resistance (the predecessor to Type 2 diabetes), inflammation in the teeth and gums, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, stress and sleep disorders. None of these were mentioned in the article.

Better food and more intense exercise are very powerful medicine. I use them myself. They are keys to even greater gains against heart attacks, stroke, obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases, including cancer.

Drugs and technology are essential to save lives following an event. But prevention, especially through better food and exercise, saves lives, improves quality of life and saves money. It deserves more than just talk. It deserves action.

Craig A Backs, MD