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Can you manage heart disease with exercise and diet?

By Dr. Gary Blanchard

Q: I am a fit 55-year-old man with a family history of heart disease, diabetes and high cholesterol. I work out daily and watch what I eat, but unfortunately my cholesterol and blood pressure is still very high. My primary care physician wants me to start taking cholesterol medication and high blood pressure medication. I have always steered away from any kind of medication and would prefer to manage with diet and exercise. Do you feel I should take the medication?

Joe from Worcester

A: Dear Joe, I have referred your question to my colleague Dr. Prasad Maddukuri, a cardiologist, who I believe is most qualified to answer your question.

He has this to say:

We can categorize risk factors for heart disease that cannot be modified, for example: age, gender and family history. Then there are those factors that can be modified, treated or controlled, for example: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes.

Without all the actual numbers, it seems you do have at least a few risk factors (age, gender, family history of heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol) for development of heart disease.

So if it were me, I wouldn’t lose any opportunity to reduce the risk as much as possible and I would suggest medications as you are already ahead of the game watching diet and exercising regularly.

Also, you can use the risk assessment tool, which uses information from the Framingham Heart Study to predict a person’s chance of having a heart attack in the next 10 years. We cardiologists use this tool regularly to base our recommendations:

Dr. Maddukuri is a cardiologist on staff at Saint Vincent Hospital. He is located at 102 Shore Drive Suite 501, 508-407-7930.

Dr. Gary Blanchard is a geriatrician at Saint Vincent Hospital as part of the Saint Vincent Medical Group. He is accepting new patients and can be reached at 508-363-5630. To submit a question for next month’s “Ask A Geriatrician” column, email it to of articles from previous issues can be read at


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