Doctor’s Advice on Avoiding Heart Disease

Heart disease is the number one killer of adult men and women in the U.S. People with diabetes are two to four times more likely than others to develop heart disease, which is why it remains the most common cause of death in those with diabetes. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease in the U.S. CAD is only one type of heart disease; other
types include heart rhythm abnormalities and cardiomyopathy.

Move More

headshot of dr. boruff
Jeffrey Boruff, MD

Not getting enough exercise can increase your risk of heart disease and other heart problems. Jeffrey Boruff, MD, internal medicine specialist, says exercise is key to overall health, mental health and heart health. Regular exercise is also vital to managing weight. He adds that to have a healthy heart, it’s also important to quit smoking, eat a healthy, balanced diet and monitor blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

“Since the pandemic began, what I’ve seen is that we are not as active and we are staying
home more,” says Dr. Boruff. “I recommend we all find time to get more exercise. Just moving our bodies more can be a small and immediate life- style change for the better.”

Within Reach

Other risks of heart disease or other heart events include having a family history of
heart problems, being overweight, high cholesterol, high blood pressure (hypertension), smoking and consuming a diet high in saturated fats. Your risk of developing heart disease increases at age 40, but it is highest after age 70.

“Having a parent with heart disease is a good reason to have your cholesterol tested,” says
Dr. Boruff, “because this can dramatically increase your chances of developing it yourself.”
Although we cannot control genetics, many risk factors threatening health are in our control. “Obesity is often reversible,” says Dr. Boruff. He explains that in many cases, patients with diabetes or high blood pressure can either temper the severity or reverse these co-morbidities completely with lifestyle changes and sometimes treatment.

Not Sure What to Eat? Try This.

For those unsure about “healthy” versus “unhealthy” diet, or are looking for guidance on what foods are good for the heart, Dr. Boruff suggests looking into the Mediterranean diet. This plantcentric way of eating is inspired by the habits of Mediterranean countries and emphasizes minimally processed olive oil, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Numerous studies have shown its heart-healthy benefits including reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other conditions.

Develop a Heart- Healthy Plan

Dr. Boruff encourages people to continue with their regular check-ups and to consult their medical provider if they are concerned about high blood pressure or high cholesterol. “Many patients with diabetes are already going to the doctor regularly to monitor  their numbers,” he says. “However, if you are not already under the care of a doctor,  schedule an appointment with a primary care physician to check your blood sugar to  see if you have diabetes and to develop a heart-healthy plan.” Before you start a new diet or exercise plan, talk with your healthcare provider. To find a physician, call (865) 374-PARK (7275)or visit physicians.

Signs of Heart Disease

There are many symptoms of heart disease. Dr. Boruff explains, “When our heart isn’t getting enough oxygen because of plaque of build-up in the arteries, it can cause symptoms when we exert ourselves. In addition to chest pain, it could show up as neck pain or  jaw pain. “Sometimes women have more atypical symptoms,” he adds. “Any time you have shortness of breath or pain from physical exertion, you should see a doctor.”

Know the Warning Signs

The main symptoms of heart disease are:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat (or heart palpitations)
  • Swelling in lower extremities
  • Loss of energy, feeling tired or run down
  • Not getting adequate or restful sleep

Box of heart health info