Identifying Risks and Preventing Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary heart disease is the official term for blockage in the arteries of the heart. Damage to the artery inner lining or endothelial cells  causes  a buildup of plaque. This plaque buildup  is the cause of blockage of the blood flow in the artery. If this blockage is great enough, then the blood supply is shut off and the affected heart muscle dies.  Our heart muscle is important as this is the “pump” that supplies the body with blood.
A similar situation occurs with strokes. The blood supply to those areas of the brain is  blocked, thus leading to death of the affected brain cells.
Coronary heart disease  is the leading cause of mortality (death) in this country. In addition, artery damage  also causes great morbidity (illness) as in angina, congestive heart failure, peripheral artery disease, hypertension,   strokes, and multiple other problems.
 What causes this damage and blockage in the arteries? We know that the leading causes of  heart disease  are obesity, sedentary life styles, diabetes, tobacco, hypertension, elevated cholesterol,  and  a family history of premature heart disease.
How can we prevent heart disease and strokes? We cannot change our family history.  But we can stop the use of tobacco,  and  we can reduce the other four remaining causes of heart disease –obesity, sedentary life styles, diabetes, tobacco, hypertension, elevated cholesterol  by having a healthy nutrition, and a  regular exercise program.  (Future articles will review  each of these topics separately).
It is very important for everyone to identify their risks for heart disease and to work on reducing those risks. This is one of the very important topics we try to do in an annual preventive health exam. 
So, see your health provider and get that annual checkup and work on reducing those risks. You and your healthcare provider should identify each of those risks, and set up a program for reducing that risk.

Confused About Mammograms Being Neccessary?

Medical studies and recommendations for best patient care are often confusing and contradictory. This week a very large Canadian study was released showing data that indicated that the routine use of mammograms did not save lives, and in fact, caused unnecessary procedures.

However, many other studies have data supporting the idea that mammograms do save lives.  In addition, professional groups like the American Cancer, Family Physician, and GYN Societies all support the use of regular mammogram screening. Supporting this opinion of using screening mammography is the fact that breast cancer death rates have shown a steady decline this country over the past few years.

These contradictory studies create some confusion among many doctors and patients. I believe that all of the studies have some truth to them and we need to try to understand what the different studies are telling us.

Every patient is unique and has different relative risks. Every patient should have a real discussion with their health care provider about the risks and benefits of   these medical tests. The time to do that best is at the annual  health check up, so make sure that you get that annual preventive  check up and have that discussion with your health care provider.