FAQ Preventive Cardiology & Cardiovascular Risk


FAQ Preventive Cardiology

Preventive cardiology is the process of taking steps to reduce cardiovascular health risks. Dr. Zambito will help you to identify your risk factors. Then, you can take the steps you need to achieve your optimal cardiovascular health. Get a head start today by reading these frequently asked questions about cardiovascular risks and prevention.

Does taking aspirin every day prevent heart disease?

Taking aspirin daily does help prevent heart attacks. Depending on your level of risk for a heart attack, it may or may not be worth it for you to take aspirin every day.  Your cardiologist will help you decide if this therapy is necessary based on your individual risk profile.

 How common is it to have high blood pressure?

About 25% of our population are diagnosed with high enough blood pressure to increase their risk of heart disease.  It increases substantially with age, so it is important to continue to visit us for periodic screening.

What is a “cardiac risk profile” which your Center keeps talking about as a key part of your experience as a patient here at the Center?

At Zambito Heart Center, we combine a sophisticated series of focused questions, physical examination findings and laboratory testing to provide you with an analysis of your individual risk for heart disease and what to do about it.

What are “cardiac risk factors”?

Cardiac risk factors are aspects of your lifestyle or medical conditions that increase your risk of heart disease or heart attack. The list is extensive and we comprehensively review your individual risks with you.  Some common cardiac risk factors include: a family history of heart disease, a smoking history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, advanced age, not getting exercise regularly or being overweight.

What is an ideal blood pressure?

The answer depends on your other cardiovascular risk factors.  For many people this will be less than 140/90 mmHg. You may have an even lower ideal goal blood pressure if you have many risk factors for heart disease. If you had a heart attack or known coronary artery disease in the past you might also have a lower ideal blood pressure goal. In general, the lower your blood pressure is, the better.

How much exercise should I do?

We recommend you try to do at least 30 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise five times per week.  We will help you plan an exercise routine that is unique to your individual risk and profile.

Can having a stressful life increase my risk of heart attack or coronary artery disease?

Yes!  Stress in your life is directly linked to heart attack and heart disease.  We often discuss and recommend stress-relieving activities to decrease your risk of heart disease.

Does eating fruit lower my risk of heart disease?

Certain diet components do lower your risk of heart disease, and a diet high in fruits and vegetables has been shown to decrease risk of heart disease.  Even ½ cup of fruit per day can lower your risk by 7%.

I heard that proper dental care can help prevent heart disease. Is this true?

Yes.  Good dental hygiene helps prevent certain dangerous infections of the heart but has even been linked to lower risk of coronary artery disease.

I know smoking increases the risk of lung cancer, but does it increase the risk of heart disease?

Smoking has effects on increasing heart disease that are far greater than the effects on the risk of lung cancer.  It is therefore much more common to see smoking cause heart attack and coronary artery disease than it is to see it cause lung cancer, although it is, of course, linked to lung cancer.

I heard that women have lower risk of heart disease than men. Is this true?

In general, men will have heart disease diagnosed at an earlier age than women, but it is not true that women have a lower risk.  Once women reach menopause, the risk of heart disease approaches and then even exceeds the risk in men.  Although pre-menopausal women have a somewhat lower risk of heart disease, they need to be equally conscious of their other cardiac risk factors.

Does fish really help lower my cholesterol?

Yes!  Regular intake of fish in your diet is linked to lower “bad” cholesterol and higher “good” cholesterol, and therefore lowers your risk for heart and vascular disease.  We think this is because of certain fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids that are found in fish oil and not found in other foods like red meat.  We recommend regular fish intake, for example 4 oz. of salmon or equivalent at least two times per week.  If you do not eat much fish, it can also help to take fish oil supplements, although we will advise you about how to do this properly.

 Does drinking moderate amounts of alcohol lower my risk of heart and vascular disease?

Yes, modest alcohol consumption does lower the risk of heart and vascular disease, for example 1-2 glasses of wine per day.  There is some evidence that other types of alcoholic beverages also can lower risk, such as beer.  However, heavy alcohol intake in comparison, actually increases risk of heart disease.

Is too little or too much sleep dangerous for my heart?

Yes.  People that regularly sleep more than 9 hours per night have a higher risk of heart disease. The same is true of people that regularly sleep less than 5 hours per night.

Is it bad for my heart to eat a lot of salt in my diet?

It depends on your risk profile. In general, for patients with high blood pressure, we recommend 1500mg per day or less of sodium.  Some patients however, may actually benefit from more salt intake.  You should discuss this with us at your consultation.

 Are all fish good for lowering my cholesterol?

All fish contain some amount of omega-3 fatty acids, the substance that is helpful in lowering cholesterol.  However, the fish with the highest content are salmon, anchovies, sardines, mackerel, tuna, and the so-called “fatty” fish.  Some seafood although it contains omega-3 fatty acids, can contain much more cholesterol and calories. It may not be good to eat these in excess, such as shrimp.

If I am diagnosed with high cholesterol or blood pressure, will I have to take medications forever?

No.  You may be able to reach normal levels with diet and exercise, and we always try to incorporate this into your treatment plan so as to need as few medications as possible.

Is diabetes an important risk factor for heart disease?

Diabetes is one of the strongest risk factors for heart disease.  Patients with diabetes are affected by heart disease much more often than stroke, blindness, kidney disease and amputations. This is due to peripheral vascular disease, although those other complications are publicized more frequently.  In fact, patients with diabetes, even well controlled, have equivalent risk of heart disease to someone who has already had a heart attack.  It is very important to have close follow-up and cardiac testing if you have diabetes, even if your blood sugars are well-controlled.

Can I have diabetes if my fasting blood sugar is normal?

Yes.  In fact, all diabetic patients will start out with normal blood sugar before eating in the early stages, so it is easy to miss the diagnosis if not properly screened.  We screen you aggressively to pick up the early stages of diabetes, and even the condition known as “pre-diabetes” which has been shown to increase your risk of developing diabetes in the future.

If I have diabetes, am I also at risk for high blood pressure?

Your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity are all increased when you are diagnosed with diabetes, in addition to your risk of heart and vascular disease.  It is important to control your blood pressure and cholesterol to improve your overall health when you have diabetes.

If my cholesterol level is “normal” why do I need to take cholesterol-lowering medication?

Depending on your risk profile, your goal cholesterol will be very different.  For example, an otherwise healthy young person with an LDL “bad” cholesterol level of 130mg/dL is normal, but if you have diabetes your goal will be close to 70 mg/dL.  Each risk factor and component of heart and vascular disease have different goals for an “ideal” cholesterol level.