(HealthDay News) – Physicians need to focus on preventing cardiovascular disease by addressing unhealthy lifestyles as much as treatment, according to an American Heart Association science advisory published online Oct. 7 in Circulation.

Bonnie Spring, PhD, from Northwestern University in Chicago, and colleagues note that the American Heart Association’s 2020 impact goals are to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% while reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20%. Since direct annual cardiovascular disease-related costs are projected to triple in the next two decades, there needs to be greater emphasis on preventing cardiovascular disease by addressing health behaviors.

The authors recommend the creation of “inter-professional practices” to connect patients with appropriate specialists to implement the five “A”s: assess risk behaviors for heart disease, advise change, agree on an action plan, assist with treatment, and arrange for follow-up care. Reimbursement practices would also need to be revised, according to the researchers.

“Intervening to achieve sustained improvements in tobacco use, obesity, poor-quality diet, and physical inactivity is feasible and will improve patients’ health,” Spring and colleagues write. “Both individual clinical and population-level strategies need to be implemented synergistically to reduce the high prevalence of these risk behaviors in the population.”

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