Heart disease prevention is important before and after someone is diagnosed with the condition:
- Primary prevention refers to measures that everyone should take to reduce their risk of heart disease.
- Secondary prevention refers to measures a patient already diagnosed with heart disease should take to reduce the risk of having additional heart damage. Many of these measures are similar or the same as those recommended for primary prevention.
Key prevention measures include:
- All patients should stop smoking and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Maintain cholesterol levels at appropriate levels using a heart healthy diet, exercise, and medications
- Maintain an appropriate low blood pressure level
- Maintain an active lifestyle
- Use an antiplatelet drug, such as aspirin, if appropriate (see Medications section of this report)
- Manage diabetes and kidney disease when present
Your doctor should ask about your smoking habits at every visit. Smoking is a chronic condition and often requires repeat therapy using more than one technique.
Cholesterol and Other Lipid Disorders
All patients should start following a heart-healthy diet and exercise regularly, after talking to their doctors. [For more information on diet, see In-Depth Report #43: Heart-healthy diet.]
Statin drugs are the primary medications used for lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. For patients without heart disease, the doctor will start or consider medication, increase dosage of medication, or add new medication when:
Review Date: 05/05/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.