The early detection of heart disease – and your overall health – are helped by establishing a relationship with a primary care provider (PCP) and getting regular checkups. According to the 2019 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistical Update,* nearly half of adults in the United States have some form of heart disease.
“I make it a priority during physicals and routine visits to identify heart disease,” says Christine Ngoc-Han Nguyen, DO from Overlake Clinics Kirkland. "Even if you’re in good overall health and don’t have a family history of heart disease, it is important to understand current guidelines for heart health and set goals to maintain or improve diet, activity and behaviors."
Risk assessments can help identify who would benefit from further discussion about their heart health. Screenings to check blood pressure, blood sugar and evaluate cholesterol may be performed during a checkup. High blood pressure (hypertension), elevated cholesterol and diabetes are three of the biggest precursors to heart disease, so detection and effective management of these conditions can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
For patients who have a family history and are at risk of heart disease, Dr. Nguyen recommends working closely with a primary care provider for regular evaluation and management of their cardiovascular risk factors, including early screening for heart disease even if they are asymptomatic.
Many heart conditions can be managed by a primary care provider, but there are times when a referral to a cardiologist may be necessary to reduce cardiac risk. “I would recommend an evaluation by a cardiologist if hypertension fails to improve with a medication regimen, or if I am concerned a patient has signs of heart disease that will likely require intervention beyond the medical management we provide in primary care,” says Dr. Nguyen.
In addition to tests and screenings, you can discuss with your provider ways to lead a more heart-healthy lifestyle and lower the risk of heart disease. He or she can guide you to resources on smoking cessation, diet, exercise and stress reduction.
Dr. Nguyen adds, "I recommend patients work closely with their primary care provider to become educated about cardiovascular disease risk factors, modify personal goals with clear interventions and collaborate on a plan for monitoring progress.”
*Compiled by the American Heart Association, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health and other government agencies.
Concerned about your heart health? Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider for a preventive care visit today.