Jeffrey Berger, MD: Future of Heart Health


What are some of the future risks, in terms of cardiovascular health, facing the average patient?

Despite pushes to educate the public, heart health is still a problem among the aging US population. While cardiologists have attempted to eliminate and educate patients on the dangers of heart disease and environmental factors responsible for declining heart health, heart disease remains the top killer of men and women throughout the country.

MD Magazine® sat down with Jeffrey Berger, MD, associate professor of medicine and surgery at NYU Langone Health, and he explained what he believes are the biggest threats facing heart health and what can be done about it.

MD Mag: What are the biggest risks, in terms of heart health, facing the average patient?

Berger: If you look at the landscape of cardiovascular disease, I think over the last several decades we have done an enormous amount in terms of stemming the risk of cardiovascular disease and it's complications. Despite that, cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. So, we have not eradicated the problem. We're doing a good job but the problem still exists. In my opinion, there are several factors as to why we have not gotten to where we want to go.

So, smoking is obviously a very important issue and while we've done a really great job with nicotine e-cigarette use is a major issue. I think the perils of marijuana I think will become more known over time. I think that smoking and secondhand smoke, and even air pollution, contributes the cardiovascular risk and I think that that's something that we will need to address. Probably even more important, in my opinion, is the epidemic of obesity and the fact that the types of foods we are eating are really filled with simple sugars or refined sugars. I think that because we are in an era where fast food is so available and so inexpensive, I think unfortunately it targets a lot of the lower socioeconomic status populations which makes them at even higher risk for having heart disease.

So, I think this is a very big deal that I think needs to be concentrated on both as you know researchers, clinicians but I think it's much bigger I think it has to be tackled from a population standpoint and I really hope that we do a better job with that and finally I think physical inactivity is a very big deal. So, in today's era with cars and buses and trains people are not walking as much as they should. I think you know people who sit at a desk and, unfortunately I am a culprit, I sit at my desk a lot but what I do is every hour or 2 I get up I walk through the stairwell and I walk up 5 flights and then and then I take the elevator down because I know that when you are more physically active, when you use your muscles your body gets in much better shape, much better health, and it's not only good for your heart but it's also good for your mind. There is a lot of data that it associates with lower incidence, lower prevalence of dementia. So, I I'm a very big fan of reminding patients, actually everyone, the importance of healthy lifestyle. I think that if we can improve our lifestyle, I truly believe we will have a healthier population.

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