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Aug 01, 2012

Counseling Recommendations for Heart Disease Prevention

Ever heard the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”?

Ever heard the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? Although this idea can be applied to a number of health conditions, it is especially true regarding heart disease. While heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States, it’s estimated that cardiovascular risk factors are as much as 90% preventable. This means that many of the factors that contribute to heart disease, like high blood pressure, smoking and obesity can be prevented. Just imagine the impact that simple lifestyle changes like diet and exercise could have on the prevention of heart disease, and how many heart attacks and strokes could be avoided if we helped our nation become healthier.

That’s why the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force was created in 1998 – to bring prevention to the forefront and help improve the health of America. This task force consists of a group of health experts, including doctors, nurses and health behavior specialists, who keep an eye on all the latest scientific evidence and provide recommendations on prevention guidelines. Although the task force focuses on the prevention of a number of diseases and health conditions, they recently released new recommendations for the prevention of heart disease through behavioral counseling.

In a nutshell, these recommendations state that counseling on diet and exercise in healthy adults, meaning those without heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, should not be applied universally in the primary care setting. Instead, health experts should use their professional judgment to decide whether counseling is useful depending on the characteristics of each patient, such as their social support network and readiness for change. The rationale behind these recommendations is that studies have demonstrated that low-impact counseling, where healthcare providers mail educational materials and speak one-on-one with the patient for less than 30 minutes, may not have substantial health benefits. So it’s up to health experts to determine who really needs the counseling and could benefit most from this support. However, the impact of counseling on heart disease prevention continues to be investigated and these guidelines may undergo revision as we learn more about the issue.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Where can patients receive heart disease prevention counseling?

  • If you are interested in learning about heart disease prevention, ask your primary care provider for more information. You can also read about heart health online at CardioSmart.org.
  • How can I prevent heart disease?

  • The best ways to help prevent heart disease is by eating a healthy diet, staying physically active, quitting smoking (if a current smoker) and maintaining a healthy weight. Patients should also know their numbers, including blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose, which are important to heart health.