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November 26, 2014

An Ounce of Prevention: Getting Smart About Heart Health

6thingscardiovascular-1 copyAccessing healthcare is complicated for many people, but LGBT older adults face a specific set of concerns and challenges. For example, according to SAGE’s new report, Out & Visible, 40% of LGBT people in their 60’s and 70’s say their healthcare providers don’t know their sexual orientations—which can lead to poorer health outcomes.

SAGE and Pfizer are collaborating to help improve the health of LGBT older people with a series of “Lunch and Learn” events at the SAGE Center. A recent event focused on Cardiovascular Disease—the number one cause of death in our country. After the event, we chatted with presenter Robbins Gottlock, a family medicine physician who treats both adults and children. Read the interview, and check out our online fact sheet, to learn more!

Thanks for taking the time to talk and to share your wisdom with SAGE, Robbins! What are some of the misconceptions about cardiovascular disease?
Because cardiovascular disease can be a silent killer, many people don’t take it as seriously as they should. And when they finally do take it seriously, they fear it’s too late. I’m here to say it’s never too late. Anyone can make immediate meaningful reductions to their risk of cardiovascular disease. Seize the moment and stop smoking, start exercising, and lose weight. Treat your blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol. Check with your doctor about other positive changes you can make.

At what age do we begin to see more instances of cardiovascular disease?
Cardiovascular disease starts even in adolescence with trace cholesterol buildup in the arteries. The amount of damage increases over time and is proportional to a person’s risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, smoking, alcohol and drug use, and depression. Some people with multiple risk factors start showing signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease at a very early age such as their forties. The average person might have problematic cardiovascular disease in their sixties. Ultimately, cardiovascular disease is the top killer of people in our country.

How are LGBT people impacted by, or more vulnerable to, these diseases in particular?
Unfortunately, as LGBT people, we have higher rates of smoking, alcohol and substance use, obesity, and depression. These lifestyle factors predispose us to cardiovascular disease. Moreover, as a group that has suffered from ongoing discrimination, we haven’t traditionally had as much access to healthcare.

Let’s say you have a patient who’s finding it hard to take the steps needed to help prevent these diseases—what are some simple, more manageable preventative measures you might recommend?
Weight loss is very important but not always very easy. However, even losing 5-10% of a person’s body weight can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, I’d encourage people to take simple steps now to lose weight—go for a daily walk around the block or cut out one unhealthy snack a day. Beyond losing weight, make sure you are up to date with routine screenings for high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and cholesterol.

Are there any exciting new treatments or findings about these diseases that we should be aware of?
Last year new guidelines were released that help patients and their doctors quantify a person’s risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. The guidelines suggest when and how to treat people to reduce their risk. Speak with your doctor about how these guidelines can apply to you.

Thank you Robbins! This has been so educational.

 

--Posted by Kira Garcia

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