Back to Top Skip to main content

Focus on prevention … not the cure for heart disease

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Cecily Dye is chief cardiologist at Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas N. Lopez) Navy Lt. Cmdr. Cecily Dye is chief cardiologist at Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas N. Lopez)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Heart Health | Preventive Health

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Can a broken heart be mended? Relationship experts may have opinions on this, but health care experts say the focus should be on prevention, not cure.

“A large percentage of heart health problems are preventable,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Cecily Dye, chief cardiologist at Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, killing more than 600,000 Americans annually.

“Heart disease is a broad term that encompasses many different problems,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Geoff Cole, staff cardiologist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and director of the anti-coagulation clinic.

Coronary artery disease, or CAD, is the most common heart disease. It’s caused by the buildup of plaque in the walls of the arteries supplying blood to the heart. Over time, the arteries narrow, blocking blood flow.

For many people, the first sign of having CAD is experiencing a heart attack. About 735,000 people in the United States have heart attacks annually, according to the CDC. About 30 percent of these occur in people who’ve already had one.

Risk factors for heart disease include gender, age, and family history. “Patients can’t do anything about these,” Cole said, “but other risk factors can be managed by adapting a healthy lifestyle.”

For example, diets high in refined foods, which have been manufactured and don’t have all their original nutrients, have been linked to increased risk of heart disease, as have some animal products. In general, red meat has more cholesterol and saturated fat than chicken, fish, and vegetable proteins. So Cole and other health experts recommend a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and legumes (a class of vegetable that includes beans, peas, and lentils).

Exercise is another important part of a healthy lifestyle. “Every time someone asks me how to prevent heart disease, I tell them to get moving,” Dye said. “Regular physical exercise is a significant part of maintaining a healthy heart.”

“And you don’t need to become a marathoner to reap the benefits of exercise,” Cole said. “Any activity that causes you to move is a good thing.” Cole recommends starting out slowly and then gradually increasing exercise over weeks to months to allow the body time to adapt and prevent injury.

At least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily, or 150 minutes weekly, maintains cardiovascular fitness, Dye said.

Avoiding tobacco products is a third heart-healthy move. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage heart function as well as the structure and function of blood vessels, Dye said.

“Smokers are twice as likely to have heart attacks as people who’ve never smoked,” she said. “Every time you smoke, you increase your likelihood of having heart disease by 25 to 30 percent. And you’re harming those around you, because exposure to secondhand smoke also increases a person’s risk of heart disease.”

Dye said that unfortunately, she sees “too many young, active-duty service members in the cardiology clinic with early onset CAD. They’re exercising and eating right to meet physical fitness standards. But they smoke.”

Dye said kicking the cigarette habit can decrease the likelihood of CAD progressing. “So even if you’ve smoked your whole life, it’s time to stop.”

Cole said some people may feel overwhelmed by tackling diet, exercise, and quitting tobacco all at one time. “So make small changes,” he recommends, “because over time, they’ll become big changes.”

And the sooner, he said, the better. “Developing healthy habits when we’re young helps reduce our risk of developing heart disease as we age.”

Join TRICARE for an hourlong webinar starting at 1 p.m. EST Thursday, Feb. 22, “What Women Need to Know About Heart Health.” The webinar focuses on how to reduce the risk and recognize the warning signs of heart disease. Register online. 

You also may be interested in...

Flag Football Game

Photo
9/28/2016
Youth participate in a flag football game on Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Travis Gershaneck)

Youth participate in a flag football game on Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Travis Gershaneck)

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Physical Activity

Battlefield Medicine Course

Photo
9/28/2016
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Michael Triana, left, 347th Operations Support Squadron independent duty medical technician-paramedic, addresses injuries on a simulated patient during a tactical combat casualty care course, in Okeechobee, Florida. The course tests and reinforces participants’ lifesaving medical skills while they are in high-stress, combat scenarios. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Michael Triana, left, 347th Operations Support Squadron independent duty medical technician-paramedic, addresses injuries on a simulated patient during a tactical combat casualty care course, in Okeechobee, Florida. The course tests and reinforces participants’ lifesaving medical skills while they are in high-stress, combat scenarios. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Orient Shield

Photo
9/26/2016
Japan Ground Self-Defense Force medics carry a casualty from an ambulance to a JGSDF helicopter while a U.S. Army medic calls directions during a bilateral medical training exercise.

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force medics carry a casualty from an ambulance to a JGSDF helicopter while a U.S. Army medic calls directions during a bilateral medical training exercise.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Soldiers from the 7th Mission Support Command

Photo
9/23/2016
Soldiers from the 7th Mission Support Command, Medical Support Unit-Europe conduct medical evacuation training with Staff Sgt. Jessie Turner, flight medic with the 1st Armored Division's Combat Aviation Brigade. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta)

Soldiers from the 7th Mission Support Command, Medical Support Unit-Europe conduct medical evacuation training with Staff Sgt. Jessie Turner, flight medic with the 1st Armored Division's Combat Aviation Brigade. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Healthy aging starts sooner than you think

Photo
9/23/2016
Air Force Staff Sgt. Nick Crouse, a medical technician with the 193rd Special Operations Wing's Medical Group out of Middletown, Pennsylvania, takes the blood pressure of a patient. Heart disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are three ailments that take a huge toll on the body as it ages. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Air Force Staff Sgt. Nick Crouse, a medical technician with the 193rd Special Operations Wing's Medical Group out of Middletown, Pennsylvania, takes the blood pressure of a patient. Heart disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are three ailments that take a huge toll on the body as it ages. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health

MEDEVAC Helicopter

Photo
9/23/2016
It is important for Soldiers to know what to expect when a MEDEVAC helicopter arrives and how to approach the helicopters, load patients aboard and how to interact with their crew chief and flight medic in order to do ground handoffs. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta)

It is important for Soldiers to know what to expect when a MEDEVAC helicopter arrives and how to approach the helicopters, load patients aboard and how to interact with their crew chief and flight medic in order to do ground handoffs. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Ukrainian soldiers on field litter ambulances

Photo
9/20/2016
A Ukrainian Soldier uses hand signals during a ground guide exercise of field litter ambulance familiarization on the driving range at Yavoriv Training Area, Ukraine. A team of medics and a mechanic from 557th Medical Company and 212th Combat Support Hospital are working together to conduct field littler ambulance and medical equipment  familiarization with the Ukrainian military. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jeku)

A Ukrainian Soldier uses hand signals during a ground guide exercise of field litter ambulance familiarization on the driving range at Yavoriv Training Area, Ukraine. A team of medics and a mechanic from 557th Medical Company and 212th Combat Support Hospital are working together to conduct field littler ambulance and medical equipment familiarization with the Ukrainian military. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jeku)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Big Rescue Kanagawa 2016

Photo
9/20/2016
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Reginaldo Cagampan, left, and Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Rocky Pambid, members of the U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka Emergency Response Team, treat a simulated patient during the 2016 Big Rescue Kanagawa Disaster Prevention Joint Drill in Yokosuka city, Japan. Multiple agencies took part in the drill including the U.S. Navy, Army and Air Force, as well as personnel from the Japan Self-Defense Force and Japanese government agencies. (U.S. Navy photo by Greg Mitchell)

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Reginaldo Cagampan, left, and Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Rocky Pambid, members of the U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka Emergency Response Team, treat a simulated patient during the 2016 Big Rescue Kanagawa Disaster Prevention Joint Drill in Yokosuka city, Japan. Multiple agencies took part in the drill including the U.S. Navy, Army and Air Force, as well as personnel from the Japan Self-Defense Force and Japanese government agencies. (U.S. Navy photo by Greg Mitchell)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Breathing techniques

Photo
2/26/2016
Airmen and Soldiers practice breathing and relaxation during their off duty time in a deployed location. Stress can take its toll on your mental and physical health, including your heart health, but there are breathing techniques to buffer yourself from it. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Airmen and Soldiers practice breathing and relaxation during their off duty time in a deployed location. Stress can take its toll on your mental and physical health, including your heart health, but there are breathing techniques to buffer yourself from it. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Mental Wellness
<< < 1 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 9 Page 1 of 1

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.