Even though American Heart month ended in February, it’s always a good idea to be mindful of heart-health. Phelps County Regional Medical Center’s (PCRMC) Dr. Thomas Martin, a cardiologist, explained that while the number of Americans dying each year from heart disease is decreasing, the need for responsible care is still around.

The proper term for heart disease is cardiovascular disease, according to Dr. Martin, since the term encompasses both the heart and blood vessels.

“Heart disease can be any number of things,” he said. “The most common is, in lay terms, a hardening of the arteries. the medical term is Atherosclerosis, that’s the deposit of cholesterol in the walls of the vessels. It narrows them and if it’s bad enough it can cause heart attacks and, obviously, death.”

Dr. Martin said that while the number of people dying because of these various risk factors are decreasing, the risk factors themselves haven’t changed, nor has the need to pay attention to them decreased. While aging has, and always will be, a factor, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol still remain common. Obesity could also be added to the list, although Dr. Martin said this is because obesity leads to the other symptoms.

“These account for two-thirds of accelerated incidents of heart disease,” he explained. “There’s still a third where we haven’t quite figured out what happens.” He added that part of that third is genetic, of that the medical community is certain.

One of the reasons these related deaths have gone down in recent years, according to Dr. Martin, is due to the advances in medication available to treat the symptoms listed above.

“We’ve made great strides.If you look at graphs that depict the incidents of cardiovascular disease, it’s on a slow, steady decline,” he said, adding later, “If you had heart disease when I started, all I could do is give you a little TLC, and to be honest with you, it didn’t work…now we have great drugs.”

Dr. Martin said that currently, blood pressure and high cholesterol are easily treated with pills, and the social pressure on smoking has been a contributing factor as well.

However the most important element to consider when thinking heart health, according to Dr. Martin, is the matter of simply take care of oneself. Exercising and watching what you eat remain the most important ways of combating cardiovascular issues. While blood pressure and high cholesterol can be fought with drugs, it’s up to the individual’s motivation to eat right and stop smoking.

“That’s the therapy,” said Dr. Martin.

So while the curve of cardiovascular disease is declining, the need for motivation and smart decisions to required to help it move even lower, according to Dr. Martin and PCRMC.