While most providers focus on the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, Jeremy Van’t Hof, MD, a cardiologist with University of Minnesota Physicians (M Physicians), spends his time in the clinic focusing on primordial prevention tactics.
A Groundbreaking Approach to Cardiovascular Disease Prevention
“Primordial prevention focuses on the prevention of diseases that increase a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease—like high blood pressure or diabetes—so it comes before primary and secondary prevention,” Dr. Van’t Hof says.
This type of prevention looks at nutrition, along with physical exercise and environmental exposures that generally lead to an unhealthy lifestyle, and therefore, an increased risk that can lead to cardiovascular disease.
“My quality improvement research focuses on using the electronic health record as a tool to identify patients who are followed by our primary care providers but may be at increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Some of these patients may benefit from a visit with someone who specializes in preventive cardiology,” Dr. Van’t Hof says.
Oftentimes, these individuals identified are young people who have abnormally high cholesterol numbers or a family history of heart attacks at an early age.
“I think there are many people out there who are young and otherwise healthy, but their genetics put them at a higher risk—even if they don’t necessarily look or sound it,” he says.
Dr. Van’t Hof’s research also looks at the disparities in cardiovascular risk control and counseling.
“We’re trying to figure out where these people are that don't get the education they need, or that have had risk factors identified but aren’t well controlled, and figuring out what the barriers are to getting them under better control,” Dr. Van’t Hof says.
Preventing Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Everyday Life
In addition to identifying those individuals that are at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease and referring them to someone who can help, Dr. Van’t Hof also suggested a few everyday ways to lower risk.
“One frequently talked about topic with patients is finding ways to make small changes toward a healthy diet that can be sustainable over time,” he says. “I don’t need you to all of a sudden be on a perfect diet. I need you over the next year, or three years even, to slowly make changes that you can keep doing.”
There’s also a host of interesting data coming out about sedentary lifestyles, and how the lack of movement is a danger to health. This goes a step beyond trying to get 30 minutes of physical activity in the day; it’s more about what is done during the rest of the day.
“I tell my patients that they need to break up their day if they’re sitting at a desk and don’t move for hours at a time. That’s a problem too. So look for ways to even make time for short interruptions every 60 minutes,” Dr. Van’t Hof says.
Lastly, he recommends trying to incorporate physical activity into the daily routine that isn’t something “special.” There are often barriers to get to the gym—i.e., getting off of work late, having to drive home to get your gym clothes—so he recommends trying to incorporate exercise into your everyday tasks.
“These are things like taking the stairs at work or parking further away or further down in your ramp, so you’re forced to take the stairs or walk a little further, but it doesn’t take a whole ton of extra time,” Dr. Van’t Hof says. “They might only take a couple of minutes, but those sorts of things create this more active lifestyle.”
To schedule an appointment with an M Physicians cardiologist, please call 612‑365‑5000.