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"As vice president and chief medical officer for Cariten Healthcare, Dr. George Andrews is well aware of the fiscal impact of cardiovascular disease -- especially in the aging baby boomer population.
"'If somebody has a heart attack, it basically takes away about 12 years of their estimated lifetime,'" he says.
"But at age 55 -- himself a boomer -- he has faith that members of his generation will take advantage of the fact that there are some risk factors they can reduce. ...
"But even more, "it's not a question of looking good; it's a question of feeling good," Andrews says. "It's not a question of living long; it's a question of living a quality life."
"Stop smoking: It will "absolutely, significantly" reduce the risk of heart disease, Andrews says -- "by half, compared to those who continue to smoke."
"Take blood-pressure medication if you need it: Doctors call high blood pressure the "silent killer" because people often have it but still feel great, Andrews says. "Patients sometimes have minor side effects and stop the medication because they felt better before (they took the medication). It's difficult for doctors to convince patients to take something when they're already feeling good."
"Lower your salt intake:
"Watch the fat:
"Eat more fruit:.Andrews says fruit in the diet is "extremely important" because of the plant chemicals fruits contain -- especially a type of antioxidant called "flavonoids," found in red wine, green tea, and many bright-colored fruits and vegetables. Some studies suggest flavonoids make arteries expand and improve cardiovascular health.
"Get enough fiber: .....
"Take folic acid: Preliminary studies suggest folic acid might delay coronary disease by lowering a blood chemical linked to heart attacks, Andrews says.
"Manage diabetes: Diabetics have the same risk of having a heart attack as does someone who's previously had one -- more than 20 percent risk over the next 10 years, Andrews says. Women who have had a heart attack have a 35 percent risk of having another in the next six years; for men, it's 18 percent. ....
"Get moving: Regular physical activity is "absolutely critical" for controlling blood pressure, cholesterol and weight,....it also reduces calcium loss and lowers the risk of osteoporosis....Andrews says. 'What I used to tell my patients is, you don't have to get to the 30 minutes daily (right away). Start with 10 minutes daily, and add to it gradually. Eventually, you'll get up there.'"
Cool heart animation showing bloodflow: