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Farhad Bahrassa, MD

Following a cardiac scare that landed him in the emergency department earlier this year, Luis Garcia of Bridgeport meets with cardiologist Irma Fotjadhi, MD, FACC, to discuss ways to improve his heart health.


Seven steps toward a healthy heart

Achieving ideal heart health could be as easy as 1-2-3, if you follow the diet and lifestyle changes endorsed by the American Heart Association (AHA) and recommended by Irma Fotjadhi, MD, FACC, a Northeast Medical Group cardiologist at Bridgeport Hospital.

Dr. Fotjadhi recommends the AHA’s Life’s Simple 7® plan to all her patients who are trying to achieve optimal heart health before or after a cardiac event.

“Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States and worldwide,” Dr. Fotjadhi said. “Part of my work is to raise awareness about cardiovascular health. My goal is to help people improve their lifestyle and incorporate changes to help them achieve the optimal, ideal heart health.”

Most of the time, Dr. Fotjadhi said, older patients will come to her office after they’ve had a heart attack, congestive heart failure or a stroke. She also sees younger patients with new onset hypertension who have been referred by their primary care physicians for an evaluation, as well as those who are obese, pregnant, or are being treated for cancer and want to improve their cardiovascular health or prevent cardiovascular disease.

“One of the things that I use with my patients is Life’s Simple 7,” Dr. Fotjadhi said. “It is like a benchmark as far as counseling patients on what they can do and what they need to do. It’s very accessible online, but I print it out and go over it with every patient, trying to emphasize primary prevention and improving their health at any stage of cardiovascular health.”

What is Life’s Simple 7?

Life’s Simple 7 is defined by the AHA as the seven risk factors people can improve through lifestyle changes that can help them achieve ideal cardiovascular health at any age. They include the following:

  1. Manage your blood pressure
  2. Control your cholesterol
  3. Reduce your blood sugar
  4. Get active
  5. Eat better
  6. Lose weight
  7. Stop smoking

“These are the seven pillars of cardiovascular health, but every discussion with patients is individualized,” Dr. Fotjadhi said. “So, if I see a younger patient who does not have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high sugar, the emphasis would be on lifestyle changes – avoiding smoking, being active and having regular checkups with a primary care physician,” she explained. “If they do have high blood pressure, the discussion would be, ‘What are the major complications of having an elevated blood pressure?' ‘How do you control blood pressure?’ and then, ‘What are the things you can improve overall?’”

Never too late to start

Dr. Fotjadhi said it is never too late to start caring for your heart. “It’s absolutely true for quitting smoking, it’s true for starting to be active. There are plenty of recent data that show that any point of time in your life, if you are active, it’s benefitting your cardiovascular health,” she said.

Learn more about Heart and Vascular services at Bridgeport Hospital.