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Heart Smarts: Preventing Cardiovascular Disease

Dr. David Jackson, MPCP Columbia Cardiology

The Centers for Disease Control reports that heart disease is the leading cause of death among Americans. You aren’t able to change some risk factors ─ such as family history, sex or age – but heart disease is often linked to lifestyle, and you can significantly reduce your risk by making healthy choices. February is National Heart Month, so now’s a good time to get started.

1. Keep an eye on your plate. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help protect your heart. Beans, other low-fat sources of protein and certain types of fish also can reduce your risk of heart disease. Two examples of heart-healthy food plans include the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan and the Mediterranean diet.

2. Get moving. Regular exercise helps you control your weight and can reduce your chances of developing other conditions that may put a strain on your heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Try getting at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. But if you can’t make it to the gym, activities such as housekeeping, taking the stairs and walking the dog count toward your total.

3. Kick the habit. Most people know smoking causes cancer, but it can also damage your heart and blood vessels, causing narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and ultimately leading to a heart attack. The good news is it’s never too late to stop smoking, and when you quit, your risk of heart disease drops almost to that of a nonsmoker in about five years.

4. Get on the scale. Being overweight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. One way to see if your weight is healthy is to calculate your body mass index (BMI), which uses your height and weight to find your percentage of body fat. Try this online BMI calculator.

If you’re overweight, even a small weight loss will help you. Reducing your weight by just 5 to 10 percent can help decrease your blood pressure, lower your blood cholesterol level and reduce your risk of diabetes.

5. Get enough quality sleep. It may surprise you to learn that people who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes and depression. If you wake up without your alarm clock and you feel refreshed, you’re getting enough sleep. But, if you’re constantly reaching for the snooze button and it’s a struggle to get out of bed, you need more sleep each night.

6. Get screened. High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels, but without testing for them, you probably won’t know whether you have them. If you have high risk for these diseases, such as obesity and family history, check with your doctor to see if you need these screenings.

Additionally, Maryland Primary Care Physicians offers a new testing method, called Carotid Intima-Media Thickness (CIMT), which can help identify people who may be at risk for developing cardiovascular disease. CIMT uses ultrasound to detect thickening in the inner lining of the carotid arteries in the neck, a risk factor for developing atherosclerosis, which often leads to a heart attack or stroke. Having this information can help you and your doctor devise a plan to lower your risk and prevent future problems.

David Jackson, M.D.Dr. David Jackson is board-certified in cardiology with extensive experience in all aspects of cardiovascular disease. He is is available for office consultations to assess patients’ cardiovascular risk factors. The Columbia Cardiology office provides high-quality, on-site cardiac stress testing and cardiac ultrasound testing. Contact us at 410-740-0789 or visit our site page.

New Test Identifies Heart & Stroke Risk Earlier

MPCP Cardiologist, Dr. David Kim Explains CIMT

We’ve made great strides in understanding the risk factors for heart disease and stroke. And we try to prevent them by eating well, exercising, controlling our blood pressure and cholesterol and avoiding bad habits, like smoking. But many people still suffer heart attacks and strokes despite these efforts. What if there was a way to identify a person’s risk earlier- and non-invasively? A new testing method, called Carotid Intima-Media Thickness- or CIMT- is doing just that.

CIMT testing utilizes ultrasound to examine the inner lining (i.e., Intima and Media layers) of the carotid arteries in your neck. These layers are known to gradually thicken over the years as part of the normal aging process. But if this thickening is accelerated, it suggests that that person may be at higher risk of eventually developing full atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”) –the step that often leads to a heart attack or stroke. Indeed, multiple research studies have shown that premature intima-media thickening identifies those at a higher risk for a cardiac event even more than previously thought. Knowing your CIMT may be very useful in formulating a more precise strategy of prevention that is targeted for you.

CIMT testing is most appropriate for individuals between 40 and 70 years old, especially in those with a history of smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or family history of heart disease. This test is NOT recommended if you already have a history of coronary artery disease (such as previous heart attack, bypass surgery, or heart angioplasty/stent), previous stroke, or known peripheral arterial disease.

CIMT testing is quick (about 20 minutes), non-invasive and pain-free. Because it uses ultrasound technology, there is no exposure to any harmful radiation. No special preparation is needed.

CIMT testing is available at our MPCP Columbia Cardiology practice. It costs $70 and is not covered by insurance. After the completion of the study, a result report with detailed explanation will be mailed to you and your health care provider(s). Your CIMT result can then be used in conjunction with known cardiovascular risk factors to more precisely assess your risk of future cardiovascular events.

If you have any questions, or would like to make an appointment, please contact the Columbia Cardiology office at 410-740-0789 or visit our site page.

David Jackson, M.D. Dr. Jackson is a Maryland Primary Care Physicians, LLC partner and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in both Cardiovascular and Internal Medicine. Dr. Jackson is a graduate of Harvard College in Cambridge, MA. He received his medical degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 1980 and completed his residency program in Internal Medicine at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center in 1983. Dr. Jackson completed his cardiology fellowship at Norwalk Hospital, an affiliate of Yale University School of Medicine, in 1985.


David Kim, M.D.Dr. Kim joined Maryland Primary Care Physicians, LLC in 2012 and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in both Cardiovascular and Internal Medicine. Dr. Kim is a graduate of Duke University. He received his medical degree from State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine in 2002 and completed his residency program in Internal Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in 2005. Dr. Kim completed his cardiology fellowship at the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry in 2008.