Protect your heart now |
Do you feel guilty if your oil change is overdue? If so, are you equally smart about your heart maintenance?
Many people don’t think about their hearts until they have chest pain or related symptoms. But 50 percent of men and 64 percent of women who die suddenly from a cardiac event have no symptoms.
While our hearts don’t come with owner’s manuals, we can learn to be proactive in early detection of heart disease, just as we may already be for breast or prostate cancer through regular mammograms or prostate exams. Remember: Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women, and stroke is the leading cause of disability.
Once you hit your 40s, or earlier if you are at increased risk of heart disease, regular visits to your doctor are key. Just as you know your car’s mileage and maintenance schedule, you need to know the numbers that can help you predict cardiovascular problems. A visit to your doctor can tell you how you’re doing on the following benchmarks related to heart disease:
- Blood pressure under 130/80
- Total cholesterol under 200 and LDL less than 130
- HDL greater than 55 for a woman and 45 for a man
- Triglycerides less than 150
- Glucose under 100
- Waist size under 35 for women and under 40 for men
Recommended ranges may be different for those with a history of heart disease.
This information, together with your family health history and review of your lifestyle habits, including smoking, will help your healthcare provider develop a risk profile.
If you have one or more risk factors for heart disease and are a man 40 and over, or a woman 45 and over, an Ultra Fast Heart Scan is an important early screening option. This quick, non-invasive test measures calcium build-up in your coronary arteries, which can be an indicator of heart disease. A qualified physician interprets your score in light of your health history and makes recommendations for follow-up when appropriate.
Another cardiovascular health screening is one for risk of stroke and vascular disease. This simple screening may include ultrasounds of the carotid artery and abdominal aorta, as well as measurement of blood pressure at the ankle.
If anything questionable shows up in your screenings, your physician may recommend further cardiac diagnostic testing.
The earlier heart disease is detected, the better the chance of reversing it. Prevention of heart disease through a healthy lifestyle is also important. Help keep that heart tuned up by quitting smoking, exercising 30 minutes or more most days and following a healthy diet.
Julie Losasso, RN, manager, cardiovascular prevention, education and outreach services at Edward Hospital, contributed to this article.