Heart Disease Prevention & Wellness

One of the most promising new treatments for heart disease really isn't treatment at all – it’s prevention. Whether you are at risk for heart disease, already have it, or simply want to learn more about it, Emory’s Heart Disease Prevention & Wellness programs can help.

As you adopt strategies for preventing heart disease, you also will help manage other chronic diseases such as diabetes, certain kinds of cancer, osteoporosis and chronic low back pain. Even if you don't suffer from any of these health issues, you will find healthy heart prevention and wellness information useful for losing weight, boosting energy, and promoting overall good health.

Heart Disease Facts

• Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2006 were in women.

• In 2006, a total of 631,636 people in the United States died of heart disease. Of the deaths that year, 26%—or more than one in every four—were caused by heart disease.

• In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds. Each minute, someone in the United States dies from a heart disease-related event.

• Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people of most racial/ethnic groups in the United States, including African Americans, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Hispanics, and whites. For Asian Americans, heart disease is second only to cancer.

• In 2010, heart disease will cost the United States $316.4 billion. This total includes the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity.

More Heart Disease Facts:
African Americans and Heart Disease
FAQs with Emory’s Heart Center Nutritionist
Benefits of Chocolate
American Heart Association Heart Disease & Stroke Statistics

Heart Disease Risk Factors

Nine out of 10 heart disease patients have at least one risk factor. Several medical conditions and lifestyle choices can put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including:

• High cholesterol
• High blood pressure
• Diabetes
• Cigarette smoking
• Overweight and obesity
• Poor diet
• Physical inactivity
• Alcohol use

Know Your Risk: Framingham Risk Score

In the US, most doctors assess a person’s risk of heart disease using a risk calculator based on the findings from a large, long-term study conducted in Framingham, Massachusetts. This is referred to as your Framingham risk or your Framingham risk score. The Framingham risk score uses a system that includes age, sex, total and HDL (good) cholesterol, smoking, and blood pressure.

What does the Framingham risk score mean?
Your Framingham risk score is your risk of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease within 10 years.

Low risk = less than 10% chance
Intermediate risk = 10% to 20% chance
High risk = more than 20% chance

Calculate your Framingham Risk Score

Know Your Risk: Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring

A cardiac CT scan for coronary calcium is a non-invasive way of obtaining information about the presence, location and extent of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries—the vessels that supply oxygen-containing blood to the heart muscle. Calcified plaque results when there is a build-up of fat and other substances under the inner layer of the artery. This material can calcify which signals the presence of atherosclerosis, a disease of the vessel wall, also called coronary artery disease (CAD). People with this disease have an increased risk for heart attacks. In addition, over time, progression of plaque build up (CAD) can narrow the arteries or even close off blood flow to the heart. The result may be chest pain, sometimes called "angina," or a heart attack.

Because calcium is a marker of CAD, the amount of calcium detected on a cardiac CT scan is a helpful prognostic tool. The findings on cardiac CT are expressed as a calcium score. Another name for this test is coronary artery calcium scoring.

Learn more about Coronary Calcium Scoring at Emory.

Diet and Nutrition

A proper diet is one of the best ways to combat heart disease. Changing unhealthy eating habits and maintaining good ones greatly reduces the risk for heart disease.

Emory’s Heart Disease Prevention, Wellness & Rehabilitation program employs a full-time nutritionist (dietician) to help patients learn healthier habits.

Nutrition Services Available:
• Cooking demonstrations
• Nutrition lectures
• Nutrition therapy, upon physician referral

Helpful Links:
Heart Healthy Tips to Lose Weight (download PDF 728 KB)
Heart Healthy Recipes
FAQs from Emory’s HeartWise Nutritionist
Diabetes Control (download PDF 956 KB)
The Mediterranean Diet (download PDF 788 KB)
The Dash Diet and Blood Pressure (download PDF 856 KB)

Start Getting Heart Healthy Today

Do you have some unhealthy habits? Are you a couch potato? Do you eat too much? Drink too much? Smoke? You aren't alone. Well over half of all Americans are seriously overweight, according to the CDC and about 50 million are smokers.

But here's good news: Scientists say that even after decades of unhealthy habits, the human body has an incredible ability to heal. In fact, making healthy changes in diet and exercise can actually help ward off many future ills.

In all, about seventy percent of all chronic diseases in the U.S., including heart disease and some forms of cancer, can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices like these: Exercise. Aerobic activity can significantly lower your risk of stroke, heart attack, as well as adult onset diabetes.

• Enjoy fish often — a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that consuming eight ounces of fish weekly could cut the risk of stroke in half.
• Lose weight if you need to. Being 30 lbs. over your ideal weight dramatically increases your chances of having heart disease — as well as diabetes, gallbladder problems, and some forms of arthritis.
• Don't smoke! If you quit, blood vessels and coronary tissues will respond fairly quickly, and your risk of heart disease will drop accordingly.

"Take heart in the fact even small steps - such as eating more fruits and vegetables and becoming more active - can improve your health," notes Dr. Laurence Sperling, who heads Emory's HeartWise Risk Reduction Program. "The important thing is to begin to make the changes you can right now."