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Heart Disease and Stroke: Dr. Kloepfer-Shapiro on 7 Ways to Reduce Your Risk

About every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. dies from heart disease, stroke or other form of cardiovascular disease. In fact, cardiovascular disease—conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels—claims about 800,000 lives every year. That’s more lives than all forms of cancer combined.

“The good news is that you can absolutely reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease,” said board-certified internist Angela Kloepfer-Shapiro, MD, of Internal Medicine Associates—Buffalo Ridge, during a free online health lecture.

“Diet and lifestyle changes, as well as medical interventions, can reduce your risk of the serious and potentially fatal consequences of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Dr. Kloepfer-Shapiro.


Watch a recording of the lecture on "Lowering Your Risk for Heart Disease and Stroke."


What is Cardiovascular Disease?

Dr. Kloepfer-Shapiro explained that cardiovascular disease, heart disease and coronary heart disease are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference between them:

  • Cardiovascular disease is a term used for all types of diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels. It includes conditions involving narrowed, blocked or clogged arteries.
  • Heart disease is one type of cardiovascular disease. While all heart diseases are cardiovascular diseases, not all cardiovascular diseases are heart disease.
  • Coronary heart disease is a type of heart disease. This is a heart blockage that occurs when plaque (a combination of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances found in the blood) builds up in your arteries. Plaque can lead to blood clots and heart attack.

Life’s Simple 7 for Reducing Your Risk

Some risk factors for cardiovascular disease cannot be controlled such as your age or family history. “However, you can take steps to lower your risk by changing factors in your control," Dr. Kloepfer-Shapiro noted. "It’s important to work with your health care provider to develop a risk-reduction plan that works for you and that you can maintain.”

She then reviewed the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple 7,” which are the seven risk factors that people can improve through lifestyle changes and, as a result, achieve ideal cardiovascular health.

  1. Eat Better—Choosing a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, will lower your cardiovascular risk. Dr. Kloepfer-Shapiro emphasized, “Your diet should be high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes and seafood.” She added, “As little processing as possible should happen to the food you put into your body. You should not be eating processed meats such as deli meats, hot dogs and hamburgers. Red meat consumption should be limited, and definitely avoid added sugar, especially sugar sweetened beverages. Also, eliminate sodium as much as possible, as it negatively impacts blood pressure.”

    Overall, a healthy diet is one that is very low in:
    -Processed Meats
    -Unprocessed Red Meat
    -Refined Grains
    -Sugar Sweetened Beverages
    -Added Sugar
    -Trans Fats
    -Saturated Fats
  2. Control Cholesterol (lipid) Levels—To help lower cholesterol, Dr. Kloepfer-Shapiro recommends a Mediterranean diet and exercise. Some people may also need cholesterol-lowering medication. She explains, “Medications are important for people who are at risk or who have had cardiovascular disease, a stroke or heart attack.”
  3. Manage Blood Pressure—High blood pressure is the leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease. "Blood pressure can be reduced with a healthy diet, medications as recommended by your healthcare provider, exercise and weight loss, if necessary,” said Dr. Kloepfer-Shapiro.
  4. Stop Smoking—Tobacco is the number one cause of death worldwide. It can cause heart attacks and should be avoided at all costs. Dr. Kloepfer-Shapiro said, “It’s never too late to quit and the benefits start one day after quitting.”
  5. Reduce Blood Sugar—Type 2 diabetes doubles and even triples one’s risk of cardiovascular disease. Dr. Kloepfer-Shapiro emphasized, “If lifestyle changes such as losing weight, eating healthy and exercising aren’t managing your blood glucose levels, there are new medications that can lower cardiovascular risk.”
  6. Get Active—According to Dr. Kloepfer-Shapiro, “The guidelines for reducing cardiovascular risk include at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.” In her presentation she lists appropriate exercises. “Most importantly,” she says, “get started and choose goals that work for you.”
  7. Lose Weight—Dr. Kloepfer-Shapiro explains, “The ideal diet is the one that works for you and that you can maintain. To successfully lose weight, calories out should be greater than calories in.” She adds, “Goals for exercising should be to exercise between four and seven hours each week to lose weight, and three-and-a-half to five hours each week to maintain your weight.”

Develop a Healthy Mindset

Dr. Kloepfer-Shapiro shared evidence suggesting that a healthy mindset can be protective. “Being happy and having a sense of purpose,” says Dr. Kloepfer-Shapiro, “can actually lower your cardiovascular risk and prevent it from increasing.” She adds, “Conversely, depression, anxiety, anger, PTSD and chronic stress can cause cardiovascular disease.”

Calculate Your 10-Year Risk

Dr. Kloepfer-Shapiro ended her presentation by urging attendees to calculate their 10-year cardiovascular risk by using the calculator on

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Kloepfer-Shapiro, call (303) 415-8820

Click here to view the PowerPoint slides from Dr. Kloepfer-Shapiro’s lecture on "Lowering Your Risk for Heart Disease and Stroke."