You can greatly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke) by making some simple lifestyle changes. People at high risk also benefit from taking certain medications.
Cardiovascular disease is caused by the build-up of fatty deposits inside arteries which can lead to a blockage. The Heart Foundation advises these strategies for everyone:
· Quit smoking. Ask your doctor for help or ring the Quitline on 131 848.
· Lower LDL-cholesterol. Aim for an LDL <2.5, or if high risk <2.0.
· Exercise. At least 30 minutes of moderate activity on at least 5 days per week.
· Control your weight. Aim for a waist size for men ≤ 94cm, for women ≤ 80cm.
· Treat depression. It is an important cause of heart disease.
What is your ‘absolute risk’?
Ask your doctor to assess your absolute risk: your chance of having a cardiovascular event in the next 5 years. People at high absolute risk (≥ 10-15% risk over 5 years) will get the most benefit from making changes and may also need medication (see below).
A combination of 2 or more risk factors (e.g. smoking + overweight + depression) can put you into a high risk group.
People with certain diseases (e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease) are also automatically at high risk.
Secondary prevention is treatment after a heart attack or stroke to prevent further episodes. There is now good evidence that certain types of medication will prevent repeat attacks and can prolong life in this high risk group. Most patients with cardiovascular disease take multiple agents long-term.
Medicines called‘ACE Inhibitors’ and ‘ARBs’, low-dose aspirin and ‘statins’ all reduce the risk of another heart attack or stroke. ‘Beta blockers’ and fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) lower the risk of further heart attacks. Ask your doctor if these might benefit you.