John Wenzlau and Millie Oakeson

John Wenzlau, CEO, and Millie Oakeson, VP of Corporate Marketing for friendship Retirement Corp. explore the best advice for lowering your risk of heart disease on Successful Aging.

This week, Wenzlau and Oakeson welcomed Dr. Ankit Chander from TriVita Clinic of Integrative Medicine in Scottsdale. Chander is a primary care physician who combines integrative approaches with traditional practice.

Oakeson began by asking, “Heart attacks are a scary thing: one of the more well-known individuals who had a heart attack in recent years was Tim Russert. Could you tell us about his situation?”

Russert was 58 years old and known best as the American television journalist and lawyer who appeared for more than 16 years as the moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Chander said Russert’s physician said that his asymptomatic coronary artery disease had been controlled with medication and exercise and that he had performed well on a recent stress test. An autopsy performed on the day of his death determined that his history of coronary artery disease led to a heart attack. The immediate cause resulted from ruptured cholesterol plaque.

Wenzlau said, “That is disconcerting to hear. Despite these well-known risk factors being well controlled, this still occurred.”

Chander explained that a heart attack happens when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of the heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked and the heart can’t get oxygen. Coronary heart disease is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries. Eventually, an area of plaque can rupture (break open) inside an artery.

Oakeson asked, “What can we do to lower our risk of having a heart attack?”

Chander continued, “Even if you have already had a heart attack, you can still take steps to lower your risk for a heart attack. These steps involve making heart healthy lifestyle changes and getting ongoing medical care for related conditions that make heart attacks more likely. Some people may benefit from taking a baby aspirin every day, along with heart healthy eating, (recommended plan is low carb and Mediterranean diet) being physically active, quitting smoking, managing stress as well as weight.”

Chander gave the following advice: Make sure that you have an emergency action plan in case you or someone in your family has a heart attack. This is very important if you’re at high risk for, or have already had a heart attack. Write down a list of your medications, medicines you are allergic to, your health care provider’s contact information, both during and after office hours, and contact information of your spouse or next of kin. It is advised to keep this information in your wallet and a location in your home for first responders to find.

Successful Aging continues to explore aging well at 11 a.m. Tuesdays on Independent Talk 1100 KFNX. For more information, call 623-847-3047 or find Successful Aging online at