Last Thursday the American Heart Association released their yearly statistics on heart disease. Almost half of Americans – 121 million people – have cardiovascular disease. That means if you’re sitting next to someone while reading this, one of you probably has heart disease. If that isn’t bad enough, the number of cases of heart disease has also increased in the past three years. So, for all the paleo, keto, low carb, low fat, low calorie, low salt, vegan and vegetarian diets along with all the money spent on yoga, spin, barre, Zumba, personal trainers and gym memberships, almost 50% of us still have cardiovascular disease.

In this age of cardiac catheterizations, cardiac stents, angioplasty, cardiac bypass surgery, heart transplants, bioengineered medications, cardiac CT scans and carotid ultrasounds the cardiovascular disease in this country has still increased – the difference is people are just living longer with this chronic disease while waiting for the disease to end their life. Meanwhile their medical expenses are sky high with prescriptions, testing, procedures and specialist visits so they can extend their lives.

This article was published in the most recent copy of Circulation which is read by most Cardiologists and Internists as well as being featured nationally on NBC news. These statistics are also distributed widely by the American Heart Association. Physicians know that 840,000 people a year die from cardiovascular disease. The public is also well-aware of the prevalence of heart disease in this country. Yet, this disease continues to wipe out our population.

Preventing heart disease sounds so easy on paper – this prevention regimen is called  “the big seven” by many physicians.

  1. Maintain a normal BMI
  2. No tobacco
  3. Reduce stress
  4. Exercise 5x/week
  5. Get 8 hours sleep a night
  6. Eat healthy
  7. Get regular check-ups

Well, it’s not that easy! Most Americans would love to:

  1. Not be overweight,
  2. Not spend money on cigarettes,
  3. Not bring home work stress
  4. Fit time for exercise into their days,
  5. Fall asleep quickly and stay asleep,
  6. Have time to shop for fresh food and then cook it
  7. Not have large out-of-pocket costs to see their doctors.

In my medical practice I spend a lot of time with patients working to prevent and reverse heart disease. We begin with education about the physiology of heart disease – most people think that heart attacks come from having high cholesterol that accumulates in your arteries, then clogs them up and you have a heart attack. This is incorrect – did you know that 50% of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels? I then assess each of my patients to determine their individual cardiac risks. This includes specialized blood work that may include genetics, non-invasive imaging, an examination for red flags, a detailed family history and an in-depth conversation about their lifestyle and work habits. We come up with a personalized plan that accommodates their lifestyle and income. Then I see them frequently in my office to follow their progress and adjust their program as needed.

There are chronic diseases that predispose people to heart disease – obesity, diabetes, tobacco addiction – plus uncontrolled high blood pressure and elevated lipids which are also considered cardiovascular diseases themselves. Eliminating or controlling these medical problems drastically reduces heart disease risk so I include their management in our personalized plans.

It’s important for patients to understand their individual risks for developing heart disease and then work with their family doctor to individualize a program that works for them personally. Cancer patients now have personalized treatment plans – the same cancer is treated differently in every patient due to genetic testing and the specificity of certain medications. Cardiovascular disease kills more people than cancer yet it is not standard-of-care to personalize your heart disease prevention and treatment. I find that odd.

My MDVIP (MD Value In Prevention) concierge practice is very affordable, can be paid through your FSA/HSA, has 60 minute appointments, same or next day availability, direct communication with me through my cell phone and includes noninvasive in-office screening tests along with a blood panel sent to the Cleveland Heart Labs. The results of our testing along with your family history and lifestyle allow us to put together a personalized plan so you can be one of the 50% of American’s who continue to enjoy long, active lives with their families and friends. Schedule a meet and greet to find out more.

Dr. Vicki Bralow

834 South Street, Philadelphia, PA