In today's world, there is a rise in the US population adopting unhealthy lifestyles that lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD).1, 2 Stroke and coronary heart disease are the two leading health conditions and leading cause of death in established countries. However, these two types of cardiovascular disease have identifiable risk factors that can be modified to reduce the risk of developing CVD.3 Additionally, due to an increase in the prevalence of obesity, primary prevention for CVD is catching the attention of many healthcare professionals.1, 2 Continuous support from providers regarding CVD prevention is necessary to increase low-risk behaviors in individuals that are especially at risk for CVD.1 It has been reported that introducing lifestyle changes at any point in a patient’s life, no matter what age, will lower the risk of coronary artery disease.4 Regardless of the large amount of information and management strategies available for this disease, the act of reducing the risk factors for CVD remains low in the populations who need it most.5
Atherosclerosis is the most prominent cause of cardiovascular disease that leads to death in the US today.6 Atherosclerosis is described as blood vessel dysfunction and inflammation which leads to the accumulation of cellular debris within vessels. The buildup of debris causes hard plaque formation which eventually closes off vessels, leading to coronary events such as heart attack, stroke, and chest pain.7 Cardiovascular disease is a medical condition that takes years to progress and can be prevented or slowed if clinicians are proactive at early identification of risk factors.6
Risk factors that contribute to atherosclerosis and cause CVD can be reduced with the addition of lifestyle modifications and medications that primary care providers recommend.6 The modifiable risk factors that should be addressed include diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and high cholesterol.7 Obesity increases the risk and severity of other risk factors for CVD, and it especially elevates blood pressure and lipid levels.1 Coronary events can be avoided with regular exercise, smoking cessation, healthy diet options, alcohol moderation, and maintaining a healthy BMI.3, 4 Primary prevention ought to be aimed at individuals with risk factors on the high end of normal or those who have a family history cardiovascular disease.3
Primary Care Providers Role
Primary care providers are the key to primary CVD prevention. They address risk factors and educate patients on ways to modify these factors. Exercise programs, physical therapy, and nutrition counseling are resources that can be recommended. To increase the likelihood of patient participation in such programs, clinicians must be encouraging and assist patients with ways to overcome external barriers that keep patients from participating.8 Primary providers can discuss and identify barriers and lifestyle influences which can be...