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Stopping Heart Disease, the Silent Killer

To Save Your Heart, It's Time to Start Using Your Head

Heart disease remains the number one cause of death for men and women in this country, the so-called "silent killer" because it reveals no symptoms.  Heart disease claims more adult lives than any other disease, accident or life event.


One in Three Americans*

So many of us—one in three—give our lives to this preventable disease. Why don’t we take better care of our hearts?

“We live with an overabundance of low-nutrient food, a sedentary lifestyle, and a laissez-faire attitude about health,” says Ian Cohen, MD, new medical director of cardiology at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital. “We think it will happen to someone else. And most people feel good in the months, weeks, and even days before a heart attack.”

Dr. Cohen adds that healthcare can also be fragmented: “A cardiologist is often consulted only after the fact.”


Meet Ian Cohen, MD, New Medical Director of Cardiology at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital

Dr. Cohen, an award-winning, board-certified specialist in interventional cardiology, brings over 20 years of experience to his new role at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital. His leadership, and our affiliation with Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, will help build on the current strengths of our cardiology services: comprehensive diagnostic cardiac testing, treatment for coronary artery disease, heart rhythm problems, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart defects and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation.

Following medical school, Dr. Cohen spent several years at the University of Chicago as a cardiology fellow and assistant professor of medicine and then worked in private practice for over ten years in Chicago. He has served in numerous leadership roles throughout his career and has published in leading medical journals.

“We truly have the best of both worlds here—a connection to a nationally recognized cardiac center, with cutting-edge research, and the benefits of an excellent community hospital.”

In addition to leading the cardiology department, Dr. Cohen will be seeing patients and serving as Assistant Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. He currently lives in Northbrook with his wife and three children.


What Exactly is Heart Disease?

Heart disease is a broad term for a range of conditions that can lead to cardiac damage or injury to the heart or other organs. Heart disease may also refer to electrical conditions (like an irregular heartbeat or fl utter), structural damage to the heart muscle, or a circulatory disorder in which a build-up of fat, cholesterol and other substances in the arteries prevent blood from flowing to the heart. The result is myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack.

The good news is that knowing the risk factors for heart disease, and identifying and treating it early, can dramatically reverse the odds in your favor.


Know What You Can Control

Family history is a strong risk factor, but it is not a life sentence. In fact, the vast majority of heart attacks can be prevented. Focus on what you can control, and you will dramatically lower your risk—possibly adding years to your life. Even patients with advanced heart disease can improve quality of life and longevity.

  • Learn your risk factors
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Do not smoke
  • Drink moderately or not at all
  • See your primary care physician


Know the Facts

  • Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America for both men and women.
  • More than half the 81 million heart disease patients are under age 60.
  • About a third of all heart attacks are fatal; strokes are the leading cause of long-term disability.
  • Heart disease shows no symptoms while it develops.
  • A significant percentage of heart attacks are preventable through diet, exercise and lifestyle changes.
  • Most people do not know that women experience heart attacks differently from men.
  • Angioplasty or bypass surgery may save your life, but there is no cure for heart disease—it’s a lifelong condition.


Know Your Risks

It only takes one risk factor to increase your chances of developing heart disease. In other words, if you do not smoke, that does not mean it is okay to avoid exercise or stop controlling other risk factors. If you are a healthy weight, but have a family history—you are still higher risk. And multiple risk factors tend to worsen each other’s effects.

  • Family history
  • Tobacco
  • Poor diet
  • Overweight or obese
  • High blood pressure (also known as hypertension)
  • Physical inactivity
  • The presence of diabetes
  • Age


Know the Tests

There is no absolute rule for diagnostic cardiac tests. In your 20s and 30s, it is good to know your blood pressure and cholesterol— even children can develop high cholesterol. In your 40s and 50s, risk factors such as family history, weight and lifestyle can be good guides.

Don’t wait for your physician to bring up heart health—ask about risk factors and non-invasive testing or consult a cardiologist.


*Statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the American Heart Association, the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease and the Heart Rhythm Society.

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