By M. Luay Alkotob, MD, FACC, FSCAI // Interventional Cardiologist
Many advances in the treatment of heart disease have taken place in the past few years. Unfortunately, the number of people taking the most important steps in preventing the disease or its progression is still not optimal.
Cigarette and tobacco smoke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes are the six major risk factors for coronary heart disease that we can modify and improve. Of those, cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. This is a widespread problem in our society and it accounts for a large percentage of the annual deaths in North America.
While smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by itself, it also influences and worsens the impact of other risk factors, including hypertension. Those who smoke have lower stamina for physical activity in general.
Furthermore, the tendency for blood to clot is increased with smoking. More importantly, for those who have already developed heart disease and undergone bypass surgery, the risk of having recurrent heart attacks and negative events is substantially higher if they continue to smoke.
It may appear to younger men and women that the risks of smoking are lower because they are young. The truth is that cigarette smoking is the most important risk factor for young men and women. It produces a greater relative risk in persons under age 50 than in those over 50.
Women who use oral contraceptives and smoke have greatly increased risk compared to those who don’t. HDL, otherwise known as “good cholesterol,” is reduced by smoking. Smoking will worsen the impact among those who have a family history of heart disease. Therefore, it is imperative for those in that population to make an even greater effort to quit.
The good news is that the health benefits of smoking cessation start almost immediately. Fortunately, within a few years of quitting, the risk of stroke and coronary artery disease becomes almost similar to that of non-smokers. This is a goal every smoker should have and aspire to. It is important to remind ourselves that this change will have a great impact on health, and that it is never too late to do it.
Physical activity reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and events. It is important to know that this applies to people of all ages and races and to both sexes. There are many health benefits of physical activity. However, most importantly when it comes to the heart, regular physical activity strengthens the heart muscle. It improves the circulation and oxygen delivery to all tissues.
Physical activity affects risk factors only in a positive manner. It reduces blood pressure and inflammation levels, while raising HDL (good cholesterol) and physical stamina. It also improves management of blood sugar in diabetics and helps maintain healthy body weight. No matter how old anyone is or what their current fitness level is, it is never too late to start an appropriate physical activity routine that is approved by a physician. Smoking cessation and physical activity should be on top of the list for anyone who is serious about improving health and preventing disease.
Dr Alkotob is an interventional cardiologist who attended residency in internal medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. He was given a cardiovascular disease fellowship at the University of Connecticut and an interventional cardiovascular fellowship at Boston University. He serves on multiple committees at Hurley Medical Center and is active in teaching residents in the internal medicine residency program. He is currently an assistant clinical professor of medicine at Michigan State University.
Hurley Cardiac Rehab Now Inside Medical Center
We are excited to announce that the Hurley Cardiac Rehab has moved from its former location at Insight Fitness to its new location on Hurley Medical Center’s Medical Center Campus. The new space provides cardiac rehab patients a larger and more comfortable environment to receive high quality care from our nursing and exercise physiology staff.
The cardiac rehab program consists of three phases. During phase 1 (inpatient), a gradual progression of activity will be offered to help patients return home quickly, while preparing them for the second phase.
Phase 2 (outpatient) consists of an EKG monitored program, three times per week for 12 weeks. This includes blood pressure monitoring, monitored exercise, nutrition counseling, emotional support, and education about lifestyle changes to reduce risks of heart disease while strengthening the cardiovascular system.
Phase 3 (maintenance) is a self-pay program for those individuals that complete phase 2 and wish to continue to exercise in the monitored environment to improve their heart health. The Cardiac Rehab serves patients who have suffered a heart attack, undergone certain heart procedures, have congestive heart failure and/or other specific heart diseases that our staff helps improve quality of life and prevent future hospitalizations.
To begin Cardiac Rehab, a referral from a doctor is required. The patient may call (810) 262-2212 for assistance with obtaining a referral or scheduling an initial appointment. Hurley’s Cardiac Rehab program is open 9:00am-5:30pm Monday, and 9:00am-1:00pm Wednesday and Friday.