According to the American Heart Association (AHA), cardiovascular diseases, which include coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, stroke and heart failure, continue to be the leading cause of death both in the United States and around the world. In the United States in 2014, 1 in 3, or 92.1 million adults, were noted to have some form of cardiovascular disease.
Due to this high prevalence, the American Heart Association has defined “ideal cardiovascular health”. This is defined as the absence of disease and the presence of seven key health factors and behaviors that are called “Life’s Simple 7.” These seven metrics are:
- An ideal blood pressure of <120/80mm Hg
- 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week
- Total cholesterol of <170 mg/dL
- A body mass index of less than 25
- No prior history of tobacco use
- Blood glucose of < 100mg/dL
The seventh metric for ideal cardiovascular health is the incorporation of 4 of 5 components of a healthy diet. These include four to five cups of fruits and vegetables per day, two or more 3.5 ounce servings of fish, such as salmon or mackerel, per week, fewer than three 12 oz. cans of sugar sweetened beverages per week, three or more 1 oz. servings of whole grains per day, and less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. The AHA also defines intermediate and poor cardiovascular health using these metrics.
These recommended metrics for ideal cardiovascular health are applicable to all individuals, even those with a previously diagnosed cardiovascular disease. However, in order for individuals with cardiovascular disease to have and maintain ideal cardiovascular health, regular follow up with an expert in cardiovascular care, such as a cardiologist or advanced practice provider in a cardiology practice, is also important. Regular follow up provides an opportunity for a full evaluation of cardiovascular health to be performed. This includes, not only reinforcement of the lifestyle recommendations by the AHA, but obtaining the appropriate lab work to evaluate cholesterol and blood glucose so that it can be reviewed and recommendations can be made, if necessary, to achieve the ideal goals for these metrics.
Regular follow up also provides an opportunity for detection of subtle signs and symptoms that could indicate disease progression. Cardiovascular diseases are insidious and often the progression is slow. Frequently, patients with cardiovascular disease, don’t notice changes in their activity levels or how they may be compensating for these subtle signs and symptoms. Regular follow up enables an opportunity for dialogue that can often uncover the subtle symptoms that could suggest the advancement of disease so that intervention to prevent a worsening condition can be done. Regular follow up can also include routine surveillance testing to detect disease progression.
Finally, routine follow up enables the patient to ask questions and receive factual and science based answers from a cardiovascular expert that can empower them to maintain and live in the best cardiovascular health possible. Regular follow ups are scheduled based on the patient’s current condition and what the cardiovascular provider feels is in the patient’s best interest.
Good health is one of life’s greatest assets. Having and maintaining good health improves quality of life and leads to greater longevity. Good health is primarily the byproduct of regular physical activity, a balanced diet, maintenance of a healthy weight and avoidance of tobacco products. But for individuals with cardiovascular disease, good cardiovascular health also is the byproduct of regular follow up with a cardiovascular expert.