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Health Information Maintaining a Balance:
Cardiovascular Health

Many people are concerned about reducing their high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. They realize they need to get them under control to increase their health and reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke.

A recent study showed the benefits of aggressive therapy for controlling high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The study found that lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels below current clinical targets in adults with type 2 diabetes may help prevent hardening of the arteries.

"While this may be a great strategy, I feel it's important to keep in mind the patient's quality of life when prescribing the doses needed to reach the targets used in the study," says Cheryl Rucker-Whitaker, MD, director of the Rush University Hypertension Center. "Many of my patients are concerned about side effects related to taking too many or too much medicine. You need to keep an ongoing dialogue to address these concerns to help maintain adherence."

"You need to see a person as an individual first and as a patient with high cholesterol second," says Rucker-Whitaker. "I want my patients to feel good while adhering to their prescribed medicine, so I work with them to get the best mix for each person."

There's a push now to lower the low-density lipoproteins (LDL or the so called bad cholesterol) in people with coronary heart disease. Some of this can be accomplished with a combination of medicine and a change in the foods a person eats.

"It's never too late to begin a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains," says Rucker-Whitaker. "If you're taking medication, a consistently healthy diet may allow you to take a lower dose in the future. And, if you're currently healthy, you may be on your way to lowering your risk of needing medication in the future."

Add healthful foods to your diet in place of less healthy choices. "Instead of feeling like you're denying yourself, this strategy will help you feel satisfied, plus you realize that with each healthy choice you contributing to lowering your risk of heart disease," says Rucker-Whitaker.

The important thing is to talk with your physician about any problems you may be having with your medication. "Always communicate with your doctor before you stop taking your medication, or if you find yourself skipping your medication – or not taking it on a regular basis because of how it makes you feel," says Rucker-Whitaker. Your doctor can reevaluate or adjust your medicines.

"It's all about getting the formula that will work best with each individual," says Rucker-Whitaker. "And this depends on teamwork between the doctor and the patient."

For more information read "Listening to Your Heart: Preventing Cardiovascular Disease."

More Information at Your Fingertips:

  • For more information about preventive care for heart disease at Rush visit our Preventive Cardiology Center home page.
  • For more information about other heart and cardiovascular services at Rush visit our Heart and Vascular Programs home page.
  • For more information about heart disease and its treatment, visit our health library:
    • Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352- RUSH (888 352-7874)

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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Maintaining a Balance:
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