When cardiologists speak about preventing heart disease, they typically refer to one of three categories of prevention: primary, secondary, and primordial prevention. All three have some similar components but vary in purpose and treatment.
Primary prevention of heart disease
The objective of primary prevention is to keep a person at risk of heart disease from having a first heart attack or stroke, needing surgery or angioplasty, or developing other forms of heart disease. Primary prevention targets people who have already developed cardiovascular risk factors like high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Primary prevention seeks to manage the risk factors through healthy lifestyle changes, and if necessary, taking certain medications. Developing cardiovascular risk factors means that inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, and/or atherosclerosis are most likely already at work and may not be reversible.
Secondary prevention of heart disease
Secondary prevention focuses on someone who has already had a heart attack or stroke, bypass surgery, angioplasty, or other events. Typically, it involves taking medications like aspirin and/or a cholesterol-lowering statin, quitting smoking, losing weight if needed, exercising more, and following a healthy diet. These steps can help prevent a second heart attack or stroke. They can stop the progression of heart disease and prevent early death. It bears repeating that the number 1 killer of individuals who survive a first heart attack is a second heart attack.
Primordial prevention of heart disease
The word “primordial” means existing from the beginning. Primordial prevention works to prevent atherosclerosis, inflammation, and endothelial dysfunction from developing in the first place. This helps prevent risk factors like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, excess weight, and cardiovascular events.
Primordial prevention is being discussed more, and it is a key element of functional medicine. The earlier you learn to practice primordial prevention, the more likely you are to help protect yourself from heart disease, which remains the number 1 cause of death in the United States.
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