Kristen Hill and patient

Developing Individualized Plans for Preventing Heart Disease

Our cardiologists at the University of Chicago Medicine know that having a healthy heart is the key to preventing heart disease. We 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. By developing plans for people at risk or those who have had a heart attack, stroke or other type of heart or circulation problem, we can minimize the chance of suffering heart disease or having another condition. Our physicians regularly help patients with high cholesterol, high blood pressure and those with a family history of heart disease.

Here, the physicians treating patients for heart disease are the same physicians who are unlocking the mysteries of how heart problems develop. Our physicians performed groundbreaking research into the biochemical makeup of cholesterol, which led to a better understanding of how fats are transported through the bloodstream. 

Evaluation & Recommendations for Heart Disease Prevention

Most patients participate in our heart disease prevention program because their primary care physician or cardiologist found problems that — if left untreated — could lead to heart disease or a recurrence of heart disease. These problems or risk factors may include:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • A family history of heart disease
  • A previous personal history of heart or vascular disease

If you are experiencing one or more of these risks, you should follow-up with our cardiologists to evaluate your heart health, and from there, you and your doctor can decide on a care plan to minimize or exacerbate disease.

Preventive Lifestyle Modification

Some locations feature classes, programs and screenings designed to help you lead a heart-healthy life. Offered programs include cardiac fitness, health education, risk assessment programs, nutritional counseling and more.

Determine Your Risk of Heart Disease Today

Learning more about your risk factors as well as easy-to-read educational material about how to stay heart-healthy. If you think you have three or more risk factors of heart disease, ask your physician about health screening options. You might benefit from getting a full lipid profile, an HB A1c test for diabetes risk and measurements of blood pressure, body mass index and waist circumference. Afterwards, your doctor will discuss your results and make a plan to minimize your future risks for heart disease.

Our physicians will review your medical history with you, perform an examination and order any needed tests. Many of the tests can be conveniently performed the same day in the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine (DCAM) or at one of our many outpatient clinics located throughout the Chicago area. These tests may include one or more of the following:

  • Cholesterol test
  • Blood pressure reading
  • Diabetes screening
  • Homocysteine test, which measures the level of a particular type of amino acid in the blood. Homocysteine is related to a higher risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG), which is a painless procedure that measures the electrical activity of the heart. An exercise stress test is a type of EKG that is performed while you run on a treadmill or ride a bike.
  • Echocardiogram, which is a painless test that uses sound waves to study the anatomy and function of the heart.

After the examination, our heart specialists recommend individually tailored heart disease prevention plans. These plans usually include one or more of the following strategies to lower risk for heart disease:

  • Medications: Physicians can recommend medications to control high blood pressure, lower cholesterol or improve the pumping ability of the heart.
  • Weight control program: Nutritionists are available to create healthy eating plans with you.
  • Exercise program: Our exercise physiologists have years of experience working with patients at risk for heart disease or those who are recovering from heart procedures or surgeries.
  • Stress management program: UChicago Medicine psychiatrists and psychologists regularly help patients identify and manage stress, which may aggravate heart problems.
Heart Disease Prevention: Expert Q&A

UChicago Medicine primary care physician Dr. Maria Ferrera and cardiologist Dr. Alan Jackson will discuss heart disease risk factors and prevention methods.

Watch Video