HCN News & Notes

A Healthy Heart Begins with Your Primary-care Provider

WARE — February is National Heart Month, a perfect time to take charge of your heart health, and a primary-care provider is a great place to begin.

“Heart problems can happen at any age, so you are never too young or too old to begin taking care of your heart,” said Dr. Mario Lysse, a primary-care provider at Baystate Medical Practice – Quabbin Adult Medicine in Ware. “A healthy lifestyle at any age can help prevent heart disease and lower your risk for a heart attack or stroke.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, risk factors can increase your risk for heart disease. Some risk factors cannot be controlled, such as your age or family history, but you can take steps to lower your risk by changing the factors you can control, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.

“The good news is that it is possible to decrease your risk of heart disease by making changes in the way you live your life,” Lysse said. “Even if you have a family history of heart disease, the power of prevention is on your side.”

Research shows that, when people regularly see their primary-care providers, their risk of dying of heart disease, strokes, and cancer declines. 

“Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the first step to a healthy heart,” Lysse said. “Choosing healthier foods and exercising are two of the best ways to contribute to good heart health. Regular exercise is an important way to lower your risk of heart disease. Exercising for 30 minutes or more on most days can help you lose weight, improve your cholesterol, and even lower your blood pressure. Two 15-minute segments of exercise or three 10-minute segments still count as 30 minutes. Just make sure the activity is vigorous enough to raise your heart rate.”

 Your primary-care provider is familiar with your medical history, your reaction to medications, your personality, and lifestyle and treatment preferences, he added.

“We can help to determine your risk of cardiovascular disease through a routine exam and testing, and can recommend lifestyle changes, prescribe medications, and refer you to a specialist if needed. If you need to lose weight, quit smoking, or reduce stress, we can suggest additional resources such as support groups, reading material, or, if appropriate, medications or aids that can help.”

Your primary-care provider may note after an exam that you should have your heart checked a little more closely by a cardiologist. Or it could be that your personal or family history warrants an exam by a physician who focuses on the heart to keep you healthy.

“If you need to be referred to see a cardiologist, your primary care provider will remain a part of your care team,” said Dr. Brian Laliberte, chair of Cardiology at Baystate Wing Hospital.