Olayinka Afolabi-Brown, MD, is Director of Einstein Cardiac Rehab at Germantown. He specializes in hypertension and preventive cardiology. (Photo by Wes Hilton)
Perspectives: What is preventive cardiology?
Dr. Brown: Basically it’s a part of cardiology that tries to identify patients at high risk of developing cardiac disease, and it offers programs to prevent cardiac disease, or keep it from getting worse if they already have it—to keep it from progressing, through diet, exercise, weight loss and other lifestyle modifications. Two of the biggest modifiable risk factors are high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes.
In terms of secondary prevention for patients who already have coronary heart disease, or if they have had an MI (myocardial infarction, or heart attack), we have a pretty big cardiac rehab program. We bring them into our gym and get them into an exercise program.
The main focus of cardiac rehab is to provide education and counseling services to help heart patients increase physical fitness, reduce cardiac symptoms, improve health and reduce the risk of future heart problems, including heart attack. We provide a physical activity program tailored to each individual’s needs. We also provide counseling and support in areas such as smoking cessation and healthy eating. Some people then move on to their own gym, and some stay with us.
A lot of the (medical) guidelines now are pointing toward aggressively modifying risk factors. Prevention is better than fixing. Really, the goal now is to prevent these things in the first place, but if they do happen, to keep them from coming back. It’s also a lot more affordable that way, from the standpoint of health care costs. That’s one of the biggest issues we face right now. As we try to make health care more affordable, the pressure is going to be increased to help people be healthier.
Perspectives: How did you choose cardiology?
Dr. Brown: Cardiology is something I was always interested in. Cardiovascular disease is one of the biggest causes of death in this country. It’s just a field of medicine where I can make the biggest impact in modifying risk and helping people live longer. The burden of heart disease is so high, and the impact is so significant.
Perspectives: Why did you choose Einstein?
Dr. Brown: I came to Einstein in 2011 from my cardiology fellowship. That was very rewarding. I worked with a lot of great mentors. People seem to be happy here, and they generally care about patients and the community they serve. Ultimately that’s really important.
Perspectives: Is there more of a need for preventive cardiology among the Einstein patient population?
Dr. Brown: We have a very large African-American population. Hypertension is much more prevalent in that population than in other populations. We have a very large number of teenagers who come in with hypertension—and it affects their heart and their kidneys. This is a disease that is more commonly associated with older people, but we’re finding it a lot more in younger patients. A lot of them go undiagnosed for most of their lives. They’re asymptomatic. Young people are notorious for not seeing doctors. They don’t find out until their heart or kidneys shut down. That’s a population that really needs to be targeted.
What’s your favorite movie?
That would be the Matrix movies. I just love the action scenes. They have some of the best. The Wachowskis (directors, screenwriters and producers Lana Wachowski and her brother Andy Wachowski) are known for their action sequences. At times I just turn on the movies to see the scenes where they rescue Morpheus.
What’s your favorite book?
I don’t get to read a lot of books; I barely have enough time to keep up with the medical literature.
What’s one thing people generally don’t know about you?
I love video games. I love the “Uncharted” series on PlayStation.