About heart disease and how to prevent it

An interview with expert cardiologist Professor Dr. Thomas F. Lüscher, head of the University Hospital Zürich cardiology department and founder and investor of the leading Swiss health check clinic Double Check - Swiss Academic Center for Checkups and Second Opinions.
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Coronary heart disease and heart attacks are among the leading causes of death for men and women in the developed world. Expert cardiologist Prof. Dr. Lüscher talks about the symptoms of heart disease and how small lifestyle changes can help you prevent it. 

What are the crucial contributing factors to the development of coronary heart disease?

Coronary heart disease is caused by arteriosclerosis, a hardening of the artery walls, which lead to stenosis, or narrowing, of the coronary blood vessels and by

Important components are genetic risk factors and the age of the patient. The older you get, the more your blood vessels and arteries are likely to harden.

So it is partly a symptom of old age. Smoking, blood sugar levels and cholsterol values are also crucial factors.

What general measures can people take in order to prevent the development of the disease?

One of the most important pieces of advice is not to smoke.

Regular exercise is also highly advisable, even if that just means taking the stairs instead of the lift or walking short distances on foot instead of driving or taking the bus. Physical exertion 2-3 times a week is recommended.

A Mediterranean diet also plays an important part in our recommendations. This consists of a lot of fresh vegetables, fruit and fresh fish.

Additionally, it would be good to get your blood pressure, cholsesterol, and blood sugar tested. If they are within normal range, check-up in five years time is sufficient to monitor your health.

What are the common symptoms of coronary heart disease that people should be aware of?

The leading symptom of coronary heart disease is angina pectoris or stenocardia. This is a tight pain in your chest, which occurs during physical stress, often accompanied by pain radiating into the left arm, or sometimes into the right arm or the jaw.

If the person relaxes taking a break, the heart recovers and the stenocardia ceases within a few minutes. Pain that starts suddenly and continues despite physical rest is likely to be symptomatic of a heart attack.

In this case, immediate consultation at the emergency unit is inevitable. In case of stable angina pectoris, a doctor should be consulted within the next days to a week. However, it is strongly advised. 

Are there new developements in the treatment of heart disease?

The treatment of coronary heart disease is currently based on several things. Firstly, there is the preventive approach which consists of promoting a healthy life style without smoking.

In cases where the patient has high cholesterol levels, they should be prescribed drugs to regulate this. The prevention of diabetes is also crucial.

Being overweight is an important risk factor for diabetes type II which used to be called adult onset diabetes. A weight loss of 10 kg can potentially normalise blood sugar levels of an overweight type II diabetic person.

What does your clinic, Double Check, offer in the way of diagnosing risk factors for heart problems?

First of all, the doctors here have time to have an extensive and in-depth conversation with the patients. The lifestyle of the patient is looked at in great detail.

Additionally, blood tests are carried out to examine blood sugar and blood lipid levels. A physical examination, electrocardiogram (ECG), stress-ECG, and an ultrasound of the heart are also carried out to determine the level of cardiac function.

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