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Heart Disease Prevention

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but it is preventable in most cases. At the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center, our heart specialists and their teams can help. 

We provide heart health education to help you understand your risks for heart disease. With cardiovascular screening and risk assessment, we can identify the early signs of heart disease. Early detection is key in managing heart disease and reducing its risks.

Heart Disease Prevention at Barnes-Jewish Hospital

At the Heart & Vascular Center, our cardiologists and their teams provide comprehensive prevention services for people who have risk factors for heart disease. We offer:

  • comprehensive cardiovascular risk assessment
  • latest screening technologies to identify early signs of heart disease
  • heart health education from our cardiologists, surgeons, nurses and other professionals
  • referrals to nutrition counseling, physical therapy, psychiatry (behavioral health) and weight management programs at Barnes-Jewish Hospital 
  • referrals as necessary to smoking cessation programs in the community
  • ongoing monitoring to keep you healthy 

Cardiovascular screening tests

We may perform one or more screening tests, depending on your risk factors and symptoms, if any. Our screening tests include:

  • cardiac CT angiography to check for narrowing or blockages in your coronary arteries
  • carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) test using ultrasound to measure the thickness of the carotid arteries, vessels in the neck that carry blood to the brain
  • coronary calcium score with heart scans to look for plaque in your coronary arteries
  • echocardiogram to evaluate your heart’s structure and how well it’s working
  • stress testing, including exercise echocardiography and myocardial perfusion imaging studies, to see how your heart performs during exercise
  • ultrasound imaging to check for narrowing or blockages in neck (carotid) arteries or the abdominal aorta (large artery in your torso) 

If your screening tests find signs of heart disease, we evaluate your results and recommend diagnostic tests or treatment as a next step. Learn more about our diagnostic testing for cardiovascular disease.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease 

Certain factors increase your risk of heart disease. There are some risk factors for heart disease that you can control or treat and others that you cannot change.

Risk factors that you cannot change

  • family history, such as a parent or sibling with heart disease
  • increasing age, in men age 45 and older and women age 55 and older
  • gender, with men having a higher risk until women reach menopause

Risk factors that you can manage or treat

  • alcohol use
  • high stress level
  • lack of physical activity
  • lack of sleep
  • obesity and excess weight
  • other conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes
  • tobacco smoking, including cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other materials with nicotine
  • unhealthy diet

Our Recommendations for Preventing Heart Disease

You can take steps to reduce your risks and improve your overall health:

  • Don’t smoke or use smokeless tobacco, and avoid secondhand smoke. Drink alcohol in moderation.
  • Eat healthful foods to help control your weight. More fruits and vegetables and less sodium are examples of healthy eating that can reduce your risk.
  • Get regular exercise. Your doctor can recommend a level of physical activity that’s right for you.
  • Get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you have difficulty sleeping, our sleep disorders center provides treatment for insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and other conditions.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. A healthy diet and regular physical activity can help with weight control. Our weight management program offers bariatric surgery and nonsurgical weight loss options to help you lose weight and keep it off.
  • Manage other conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Our doctors offer comprehensive treatment options for these and other conditions that can affect your heart health.
  • Manage your stress with practices such as yoga, exercise, meditation and social activities.
  • Get regular health screenings to watch for early signs of heart disease.

Heart Diseases We Treat 

We treat all types of heart disease, including:

  • Arrhythmia: Arrhythmias and heart rhythm disorders are conditions that affect the heart’s electrical system, causing irregular heartbeats.
  • Congenital heart disease: Some people are born with heart conditions that develop before birth. Our heart doctors specialize in treating adult congenital heart disease.
  • Coronary artery disease: Certain diseases cause coronary (heart) arteries to narrow and stiffen, reducing blood flow to heart muscle. Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease in women and men.
  • Heart failure: This heart disease can result from a number of other heart diseases or other conditions. Heart failure means that your heart is unable to pump enough blood to the body.
  • Structural heart disease: These conditions affect the heart’s chambers, valves or walls. Some types of structural heart disease can be congenital, and others develop later in life. 
  • Valvular heart disease: Also called heart valve disease, valvular heart disease affects the heart’s ability to pump enough blood to the body. 

Our Heart and Vascular Team

Our heart and vascular doctors, surgeons and their teams are national leaders in cardiovascular care. We provide exceptional care for our patients, train the next generation of doctors and conduct research to advance the field. As trusted heart health providers, we treat people from throughout the St. Louis region and surrounding states. Find a doctor.

Heart Disease Prevention: Research and Clinical Trials

Through groundbreaking research, our cardiovascular team helps develop tomorrow’s standards of care for heart diseases of all kinds. As our patient, you may be eligible to participate in our clinical trials. These research studies offer access to promising new treatments before they are available to the public. Learn more about our innovation.

Contact Us

To make an appointment with a Washington University cardiologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call 314-362-1291.