Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States? And according to a recent Heart Health survey by the Cleveland Clinic, 74% of Americans don’t think they will be among the statistics. As we all know, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” (Benjamin Franklin) but are you certain the facts you’ve been given on preventing heart disease are actually accurate? According to the cardiologist, Dr. Richard Krasuski of the Cleveland Clinic, popular supplements we’ve been advised to take just aren’t doing the trick. He was kind enough to join me for an interview this week to share simple tips on how diet and exercise, and quitting smoking can prevent heart disease.
Candace Rose: According to a recent Heart Health Survey by the Cleveland Clinic most Americans do not believe they will die from heart disease even though it is the number one cause of death. Why do you think there is this lack of concern?
Dr. Richard Krasuski: “I think that what’s happened basically is we’ve become numb to it a little bit, I think. We’ve been hit over the head for many years about heart disease and its risk, and I think when you hear a message so many times, eventually it dulls. I think there’s no excuse here. This is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States, and it’s critically important that we try to modify that risk.”
Candace Rose: What are some other findings from the survey that surprised or concerned you?
Dr. Richard Krasuski: “I think what surprised me the most is that up to a third of folks are really doing nothing to decrease their risk of heart disease. But even more shocking was that about a quarter of those people who actually have a family history of heart disease, actually aren’t doing anything to decrease their risk- that to me was the most shocking.”
Candace Rose: What can we do to reduce our risk of developing heart disease?
Dr. Richard Krasuski: “It really starts with lifestyle modification. Probably the most important of those is diet, and making sure what we put into our body’s is healthy. Reducing the amount of saturated fat, fat, cholesterol, and salt. I think a lot of us know about fat, but don’t recognize the fact that a lot of what’s considered to be heart healthy in restaurants is in fact still loaded with salt.
Americans in general consume way too much salt, probably about five times what we actually need. Being more active is critically important, exercising regularly. We now recommend about 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week. A lot of us can’t do that, and I would be a hypocrite to tell you that I do that on a regular basis, but I try to group my exercise together so I get to that two hour goal by the end of the week.
Thirdly, I think quitting smoking. I think those folks that smoke, it’s absolutely critical to quit. The good news is the heart is a forgiving organ. If you quit smoking you can actually recover a lot of the damage that’s been done.
Finally, knowing your numbers. Knowing your cholesterol, knowing your blood pressure helps you to know what your goals ought to be.”
Candace Rose: You mentioned exercise; what type of exercise is best for reducing your risk of developing heart disease?
Dr. Richard Krasuski: “Aerobic activity. We really want you to get active and get your heart rate up. That can be as little as brisk walking- getting on a treadmill and walking or getting outdoors and walking, that’s really the cheapest and easiest form of exercise. It doesn’t mean you have to join a health club to do that. Like I said, trying to do that on a regular basis is critical.
For us and our family, getting out and walking after dinner has become a regular routine. Even though I tend to get home pretty late, we still try to get out there and go around the block whenever we can.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?
Dr. Richard Krasuski: “Sure. I think a couple of other scary facts about heart disease is there really isn’t that magic pill for heart disease. I think people would like to have a supplement and be able to take vitamin D or I’m going to take fish oil to protect myself against heart disease risk. In fact, when we started to study this in more detail we’ve been quite disappointed by the results. So it’s really about that healthy lifestyle that’s critically important. You really can’t make up for an unhealthy lifestyle by just taking a pill.
I really want to emphasize how important it is, those things we mentioned earlier and trying to focus your life around that to make sure that you minimize your risk longterm.”
Candace Rose: Where can we go for more information?
Dr. Richard Krasuski: “We’ve designed a nice little website at the Cleveland Clinic. It’s ClevelandClinic.org/LoveYourHeart.”