Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of men and women worldwide? It accounts for 34 percent of all deaths, many being sudden and almost all of them premature. The best prevention against heart disease and stroke is to understand the risks and treatment options. Certain risk factors make some people more likely to have heart disease, such as diabetes and obesity. The greatest risk is ignorance or misinformation. The first step is to take responsibility for your health.
Your choices can influence your heart health. Lifestyle changes can greatly reduce your chance of heart disease.
Lifestyle risk factors that can be prevented or changed:
- Smoking: Smoking tobacco roughly doubles your risk of developing heart disease. The chemicals in tobacco get into the bloodstream from the lungs, where they damage the blood vessels (arteries) and other parts of the body. Your risk of having a stroke, and developing other diseases such as lung cancer, are also increased.
- Lack of physical activity (Exercise): People who are physically active have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases compared with inactive people. To gain health benefits you should do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days (at least five days per week).
- Obesity: If you are overweight, you are more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, or certain cancers. The increased health risk of obesity is most marked when the excess fat is mainly in the tummy (abdomen) rather than on the hips and thighs.
- An unhealthy diet: Eating healthily helps to control obesity, and lower your cholesterol level. Both of these helps to reduce your health risk. Also, there is some evidence that eating oily fish (herring, sardines, mackerel, salmon, kippers, pilchards, fresh tuna, etc.) helps to protect against heart disease. It is probably the omega-3 fatty acids in the fish oil that help to reduce the build-up of small fatty lumps called atheroma.
- Drinking excess alcohol: Drinking a small or moderate amount of alcohol probably reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, but routine or excessive alcohol use is risky behavior.
Treatable or partly treatable risk factors:
- High blood pressure (hypertension): You should have your blood pressure checked at least every 3-5 years. High blood pressure usually causes no symptoms, so you will not know if it is high unless you have it checked. However, over the years, high blood pressure may do some damage to the blood vessels (arteries) and put a strain on your heart.
- High cholesterol blood level: In general, the higher the blood cholesterol level, the greater the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Having high cholesterol is riskier if you also have other risk factors such as diabetes or high blood pressure. As a rule, no matter what your cholesterol level is, lowering the level reduces your risk.
- High fat (triglyceride) blood level
- Diabetes and kidney disease: The increased risk that diabetes and kidney disease pose to developing cardiovascular disease and kidney problems can be modified. For example, good control of blood sugar (glucose) levels in people with diabetes reduces the risk. Good control of blood pressure in people with diabetes and kidney diseases also reduces risk.
Who should have their cardiovascular health risk assessed?
- All adults aged 40 or more
- Adults of any age who have:
- A strong family history of early cardiovascular disease. This means if you have a father or brother who developed heart disease or a stroke before they were 55; or, if you have a mother or sister who developed heart disease or a stroke before they were aged 65.
- A first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, child) with a serious hereditary lipid disorder. For example, familial hypercholesterolaemia or familial combined hyperlipidaemia. These diseases are uncommon.
· If you already have a cardiovascular disease or diabetes then your risk does not need to be assessed. This is because you are already known to be in the high-risk group.
What does the assessment involve?
A doctor or nurse will:
- Do a blood test to check your cholesterol and blood sugar (glucose) level
- Measure your blood pressure and your weight
- Ask you if you smoke
- Ask if there is a history of cardiovascular diseases in your family (your blood relations); if so, at what age the diseases started in the affected family members
If you may be at risk for cardiovascular disease, learn more about how to prevent it by calling Rockville Concierge Doctors at (301) 545-1811 to request an appointment.