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Dr. Matthew DeVane on Heart Disease
Matthew DeVane, M.D. is a recognized expert in heart disease prevention and is leading the way in state-of-the-art cardiac diagnostic testing efforts in Northern California. He is a cardiologist and director of cardiac disease prevention with Cardiovascular Consultants Group. DeVane sits on the board of the American Heart Association. Here, he shares his recommendations for anyone dealing with the symptoms of heart disease.
What is the first thing you recommend to someone who has been diagnosed with heart disease?
When most people hear about heart disease they are really referring to coronary artery disease. That is far and away the number one killer of men and women in this country. The first thing I tell patients once we’ve diagnosed that they do in fact have coronary artery disease is that they need to sit down and think about their priorities in life. This is a problem that is 90% preventable through things like diet and exercise but also by paying attention to and managing stressors in one’s life.
For example a number of patients I’ve seen have a horrendous daily commute to and from work—those kinds of other factors are things to think about when you look at managing your overall health. I tell them that they need to take responsibility for their health and can reverse the disease with the right steps.
What are the most important things one can do in the first 30 days of being diagnosed with heart disease?
In the first 30 days an individual can really start putting together the vision of what a heart healthy lifestyle looks like and they can begin to set goals that will help them get there. Frame of mind is important; managing this disease is a lifestyle change, so it helps if you view it in a holistic way. Look at every component–weight, diet, exercise, medications, etc. Working with your doctor you can determine what you need to do from the medical standpoint and then create a plan of 3, 6 and 12 month health goals.
The important thing is to put things down on paper. You’ve got to pencil things like exercise into your daily calendar and make it a high priority. If it is the last thing on your to do list it is not going to happen. In addition you will need to start paying attention to specific areas of your life like how often you are eating out, the portions of food you are eating and being conscious of reading labels on things before you buy them.
Do you believe having a positive attitude affects how one copes with and hopefully overcomes heart disease?
Being diagnosed may be the most positive thing about heart disease because you are one of the lucky ones who has been given a chance to get better and there are a lot of things you can do to make sure it doesn’t get worse. You have to have a positive attitude from this point on because it will play a huge role in how you are able to turn things around. This disease is totally preventable and reversible if you make the right changes and have the right frame of mind.
Is there conclusive evidence that stress plays a factor in heart disease?
I think the problem with stress is it is hard to prove that stress causes problems. But the reality is that when you are stressed out you tend to eat and drink more and your blood pressure and heart rate run higher putting more pressure on the heart. People get caught up in a stress cycle as a way of life. So I believe that stress does play a role and managing stress in whatever way you can, will help manage the disease. Things like getting enough sleep and exercise are ways that help counteract stress and make you feel better overall.
We know that depending on their specific diagnosis an individual’s health plan may vary, but is there one thing that you can say every single person diagnosed needs to think about or take action on immediately?
Yes, smoking. I have a no tolerance policy with my patients. You simply can no longer smoke. Period. There is no such thing as a social or sometime smoker. Either you do or you don’t and if you have been smoking is the most damaging thing to your arteries. So quitting smoking is a primary target for prevention and reversal.
For more information on Dr. DeVane, visit www.heartsmartonline.com.