October 06, 2017
2 min read

Experts discuss heart disease prevention, risk factors

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Timothy D. Henry, MD
Timothy Henry

The prospects of treating certain types of heart disease are extremely promising when caught early, according to an expert interviewed by Healio Family Medicine.

“We’ve made tremendous strides in treating heart attacks over the last 2 decades. We’ve dramatically improved the treatment of valve disease as well. It’s amazing how far we’ve come,” Timothy Henry, MD, director of cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, said.

Despite this progress, there are still strides left to be made.

According to the CDC, approximately one in every four deaths each year in the United States can be traced to heart disease. In addition, heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women.

The CDC also recently released data that indicated the rate of stroke has stagnated after years of decline. In addition, the Global Burden of Disease study published in the Lancet last month suggested that ischemic heart disease was the leading cause of premature mortality in most regions of the world.

To better understand the current state of heart disease management, Healio Family Medicine spoke to Henry and Paul J. Mather, MD, professor of clinical cardiovascular medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, about their concerns regarding heart health, patient care and more. – by Janel Miller

Question : If there was one concern regarding heart health primary care physicians should be aware of, what would that be?

Henry: Coronary artery disease is a major problem, and it is a process that begins during childhood. It involves the development of blockages in arteries or the hardening of arteries, also known as atherosclerosis.

Paul Mather
Paul J. Mather

Mather: We had made such good progress over the past 10 to 15 years with decreasing the number of cardiovascular-related comorbidities, deaths and improving the quality of life. But in the last year and a half, we’ve seen a flattening in the rate of cardiovascular disease and an increase in stroke deaths. My biggest worry is that we’re starting to see the diabetes, hypertension and obesity epidemics in America translate to more cases of cardiovascular disease.

Q: How can PCPs address this heart health concern ?

Henry: There are five things PCPs can do to prevent coronary artery disease. First is getting their patients to stop smoking. Second is checking and treating a patient’s high cholesterol. Third is checking BP and treating it, if it’s high. Fourth is [trying to avoid] diabetes. And the fifth is being aware of your patient’s family history.


Mather: Avoiding obesity, diabetes and hypertension are some of the best ways to prevent stroke. Our country also needs to find ways to address the food deserts in certain parts of the country and the social determinants of health. It has to be a multipronged approach. ... The greatest inroad we can make with our patients is to talk to them about the importance of healthy lifestyles, prevention and what they are particularly at risk for depending on where he or she lives.

Question: There is a lot of ground PCPs are asked to cover with their patients, and office visit s are limited . How important is it to bring up cardiovascular health?

Mather: It should rank number one for this statistical reason: Three out of four Americans will be affected by cardiovascular disease. That’s 75%; so, either it will be you or someone very close to you.

Henry: [Cardiovascular disease] is a huge public health problem. It’s important to realize there is no one who is not impacted by heart disease.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart Disease Facts. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm. Accessed Sept. 26, 2017.