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Edward Healy, MD
Cardiovascular Health For Men
Johns Hopkins Community Physicians Heart Care - Bethesda

Cardiovascular Health For Men

Cardiovascular disease is a complex disease process that affects the plumbing of the body, that is, the vascular system that brings blood and oxygen to the body. While most people think of cardiovascular disease as affecting the heart, it can also damage the brain (through strokes), the kidneys, the aorta and the legs.
Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of illness and death in men, and its overall incidence is rising. Fortunately, there are many things men can do to reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease and, if already present, to help treat it.
The major risk factors for cardiovascular disease are male gender, advancing age, a family history of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol and smoking.
Smoking is one of the most important risk factors, and one that we can do something about. My advice to patients who want to quit is always to be patient and be persistent. Nicotine is an addictive substance, and many people do not succeed on their first attempt to quit. If you are a current smoker, talk to your doctor about coming up with a plan to quit.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes can all be linked to poor diet, increased weight and lack of exercise. The good news is that lifestyle changes can help with all three of these risk factors.
When it comes to exercise, I recommend exercising for 45 to 60 minutes five times a week.
One of my medical school professors used to say that in the past food was expensive and exercise was cheap, but now food is cheap, exercise is expensive and we are gaining weight. Remember, exercise does not have to be elaborate or expensive, a brisk walk is excellent exercise. If, at the end of the exercise, you are tired and have built up a sweat, it is probably adequate. If you have not been exercising recently, talk to your doctor before beginning a regimen.
Exercise is crucial to long-term health as it can help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure, lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol.
Another crucial component to a heart healthy lifestyle is a good diet. Diets that are low in fat, especially saturated fats, and are high in vegetables, fiber and protein are an important part of a healthy lifestyle. One thing to look out for in you diet is partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. These are commonly found in prepackaged foods and are very damaging to the cardiovascular system. Fortunately, they are now required to be listed on ingredients and more products are being made without them.
In summary, the bad news about cardiovascular disease is that it is very common, and our lifestyles are helping to make it more common. The good news is that means there are things we can do about it.

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