Why your primary care provider is key to your heart health

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In addition to providing routine care like annual vaccines and wellness checks, your primary care provider (PCP) can also be your first line of defense against serious illnesses like heart disease by diagnosing conditions that can lead to cardiovascular disease early, such as high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity.

Lifestyle choices like physical inactivity, excessive alcohol use, smoking and an unhealthy diet are key contributors that increase the risk for heart disease. Those with a strong family history of heart disease may also be at risk. Fortunately, your primary care physician can help you avoid or manage these conditions.

Your PCP can also refer you to a cardiologist when a higher level of personalized care is needed.

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Nutrition Counseling

Healthy eating is one of the primary ways to prevent heart disease. Your primary care provider can help you manage your diet to meet your nutritional needs and refer you to a dietician for counseling if required.

Monitoring Your Blood Pressure

If you have high blood pressure (hypertension), you may not have any symptoms. This is why it’s important to monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis at home. Your primary care provider will measure your blood pressure at least once every other year – or more often if you have high blood pressure. Your PCP can also help you improve your lifestyle habits, like reducing sodium intake and increasing physical activity, which can naturally lower blood pressure. Medications can also be prescribed, if required.

Checking Your Cholesterol

Blood cholesterol is a fat-like substance made by the liver that plays an important role in maintaining your body’s daily function (homeostasis). Excess amounts of saturated fats from red meat, butter, cheese and fried foods are bad for the body. Eating these foods regularly can result in narrowing of the heart arteries, which may lead to heart disease. As with high blood pressure, there may be few symptoms of high cholesterol, so you may not know that you have high cholesterol until you suffer a heart attack or stroke. It’s important to work with your primary care provider to keep your cholesterol in check.

Managing Diabetes

Heart disease and diabetes often go hand in hand as high blood sugar can damage the blood vessels as well as several other organs. Diabetes can also lead to heart failure, a serious condition where the heart is unable to pump blood throughout the body. Your PCP can create a personalized care plan for your specific needs.

Weight Management

Being overweight or obese can be strong risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, so maintaining a healthy weight is critical for general health. Your doctor can help develop a personalized plan so that a healthy weight can be attained, with both lifestyle and weight-loss medications.

Cardiologist Referral

If lifestyle modifications aren’t working, your primary care provider may recommend medication or refer you to a cardiologist for a higher level of personalized care.

Our cardiologists offer the most innovative tools and treatments available to assess your personalized risk and reduce the chance of developing heart disease. They work with your PCP to create a personalized treatment plan for your unique needs.

*Sujata Putatunda, MD, is a UChicago Medicine Medical Group provider. UChicago Medicine Medical Group is comprised of UCM Care Network Medical Group, Inc. and Primary Healthcare Associates, S.C. UChicago Medicine Medical Group providers are not employees or agents of The University of Chicago Medical Center, The University of Chicago, or UChicago Medicine Kenwood.

Charles German

Charles German, MD, MS

Charles German, MD, MS, is a board-certified cardiologist who specializes in preventive and general cardiology. Dr. German works with patients who are at risk for heart disease to collaborate on individual treatment plans for each patient.

Learn more about Dr. German
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Heart Disease Prevention

UChicago Medicine cardiologists understand the risks and causes of heart disease, including hereditary factors that could play a part in your heart health, and we are dedicated to having you be a part of creating the strategies to avoid heart disease. 

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