Identifying people with risk factors for cardiovascular disease is critical. For example, it is important that primary care providers screen patients for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tobacco use, and overweight and obesity to make sure people with those risk factors for cardiovascular disease know it and can get information about how to control the condition or make behavior changes. Evidence based strategies include maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, getting adequate exercise, limiting alcohol, and eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber and low in fats and sugars. Several programs housed within the Department of Health’s Division of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention and Division of Alcohol and Drug Prevention support activities that promote those strategies.
National organizations including the CDC, Million Hearts ®, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association recommend a number of evidence-based interventions to help prevent conditions like high cholesterol and high blood pressure from developing, and to assist people with to reduce and control their risk factors. These include:
- Working with a health care team
- Making lifestyle changes (healthy diet, being active, not smoking and limiting alcohol).
- Using self-measured Blood Pressure techniques
- Getting your cholesterol checked
- Primary Care Providers using evidence based treatment protocols
- Million Hearts Healthy Eating and Lifestyle Resource Center
Self-management education programs like the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP) and the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program (YDPP) help teach people with or at risk for cardiovascular disease to manage lifestyle and behaviors that will lead to better blood pressure control and other lifestyle changes that can help lower reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The CDSMP is called “Healthier Living Workshop” in Vermont and is offered throughout the state. The program specifically addresses arthritis, diabetes, lung and heart disease, but teaches skills useful for managing a variety of chronic diseases. This program was developed at Stanford University and helps individuals develop skills to cope with their condition, improve energy levels, manage pain, and learn to make the best choices for their condition and lifestyle. It covers topic such as: techniques to deal with problems associated with chronic disease, appropriate exercise, appropriate use of medications, communicating effectively with family, friends, and health professionals, nutrition, and how to evaluate new treatments. Participants who took CDSMP demonstrated significant improvements in exercise, ability to do social and household activities, less depression, fear and frustration or worry about their health, reduction in symptoms like pain, and increased confidence in their ability to manage their condition.
An important first step is to make an appointment with your primary care provider to have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels taken. Your provider can help identify ways to maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, or develop a plan that could include lifestyle changes and possibly medications, to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Recommendations from health care providers are among the most influential factors in convincing people to be physically active and join a self-management program.
It is very important for people of all ages to engage in health lifestyle behaviors, including not using tobacco, eating a healthy diet, and being physically active. The behaviors that contribute to cardiovascular disease also lead to other chronic diseases. There are three behaviors that lead to four chronic diseases that result in more than 50% of deaths in Vermont. Tobacco use, physical inactivity and poor nutrition all contribute significantly to cancer, heart disease and stroke, diabetes, and pulmonary diseases like asthma and COPD. We call this the 3.4.50 message. For more information, visit the Department of Health’s 3.4.50 webpage.