Edina Family Physicians

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Health Management

We now can identify people with an increased risk of heart disease, hardening of the arteries and heart attack by looking at the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides (fatty compounds) in their blood.

Whether a person with high levels of these compounds should be treated will depend on age, gender, family history and other risk factors.

Diet is considered the most effective way to lower total blood cholesterol and triglycerides. This means eating more fish and poultry and less red meat, eggs, butter and other dairy fats. It also means eating more fruits, vegetables and cereal grains.

The goal of any dieter should be a gradual weight loss, a change in eating habits -- along with regular exercise -- to lose weight and maintain the desired weight throughout life.

Increased exercise has been shown to increase the level of protective or "good" HDL cholesterol. Contact your doctor or nurse practitioner for assistance in meeting your goals.

Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, and studies show that smokers have lower levels of HDL in their blood which further increases their risk. We would be happy to recommend a program to quit smoking. Please also see our "Smoking Cessation" video located off our home page.

If diet and exercise along do not control cholesterol and triglycerides, your doctor may subscribe a medication. The medication is intended to work along with diet and exercise -- not to replace them.

High blood pressure is another risk factor. People with high blood pressure have a remarkably increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Most high blood pressure can be lowered with drugs, reduced salt intake and weight loss in people who are overweight.

Other risks are obesity, diabetes, type A personality, stress and sedentary lifestyle.

Obesity alone increases the risk of heart disease. Since obesity is often accompanied by hypertension, diabetes, and a sedentary lifestyle, weight control is an important factor in reducing coronary risk.

In recent years, there has been much discussion on the relationship between the risk of heart attack and the person with a type A personality (characterized by anxiety, impatience and perfectionism). Excessive stress and inability to cope with it have long been associated with increased illness such as heart disease, high blood pressure, ulcers and possibly cancer. Stress weakens and disturbs the body’s defense mechanisms.

Good ways to reduce stress include breathing and relaxation exercises, meditation and regular aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming and biking.


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