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What is Cardiovascular Risk and How to Reduce It

Updated: Jul 6, 2023


When your doctor refers to “cardiovascular risk”, they usually mean how likely you are to have a heart attack, stroke, or significant blockage of another artery in the next 10 years. Cardiovascular risk is something your doctor can estimate with information from your medical visits. Why should you care about this?

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, heart disease has kept the title of being the number one cause of death of American women and men (CDC reference, 2020) in 2020, the most recent year for which we have data. In fact, heart disease has been the number one killer of American women and men for many decades.

“Heart disease” can mean many things, but the major problem I am referring to here is caused by blockages of heart arteries (atherosclerosis) that reduces the flow of blood to heart muscle. This can cause chest pain because the heart muscle isn’t getting enough oxygen to support its normal function.

In the past 100 years or so, scientists and physicians have found several things that we can control that will make it less likely we will have significant blockages in our arteries as we age.

For example, stopping smoking (or not starting) is one of the most important things we can do to reduce our risk of heart disease. Other factors we can control through lifestyle or medical treatment include keeping your blood pressure in the normal range, controlling your sugars if you are a diabetic, losing weight, increasing your activity level, controlling your cholesterol, and maintaining a healthy weight.

These can be challenging, and sometimes we all need help or advice. I can help you understand and reduce your cardiovascular risk, and can be your partner to better health.

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