Your family doctor should be your first stop to reduce your cardiovascular risk factors. Catching and addressing problems when they are in the early stages can minimize your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Monitoring Your Numbers
Many people who feel relatively healthy neglect their yearly physical. The major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension, are impossible to determine without testing. It is imperative that you have a yearly physical and if your doctor forgets to order routine blood work, gently remind them. In addition to staying abreast of your blood pressure, especially as you age, your blood glucose and lipids can creep up each year. Tackling the problem when you or your doctor first notices an elevation will make the problem easier to control, sometimes without medication.
Identify Ineffective Treatments
Many people are on medications to reduce a current chronic disease, but the treatment is not effective or as effective as your doctor would like. Without carefully paying attention to how you respond to each treatment, you may walk around with catastrophically high numbers that could have been managed, simply by changing treatment. For example, people with hypertension are frequently prescribed a diuretic as the first-line treatment, but this is rarely enough to bring blood pressure down to safe levels. Your doctor might recommend an ACE-inhibitor as the next step, especially when combined with a diuretic. For people who have inadequate results with an ACE-inhibitor or develop a chronic, dry cough from this class of medications, a beta-blocker is often a better alternative.
Aid In Health Management
Although you may only think about talking with your doctor about ways to better manage your health if you are overweight, everyone can benefit from recommendation by their doctor. If you are overweight, your doctor might refer you to a nutritionist, but in extreme cases, they may feel like a consultation with a bariatric surgeon is a better option. For people at an ideal body weight, a consultation with a nutritionist cannot hurt, especially if you have chronic diseases. Many chronic diseases can be managed with changes in your lifestyle, regardless of weight, such as eating an improved diet and engaging in routine exercise, especially cardio and strength-training.
Although you might only think about your family practice doctor when you face a problem, you should consider your doctor as part of your team to help reduce your risk of serious diseases later in life. Routine physicals combined with prompt treatment of underlying conditions can substantially reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.