Grab a pen and paper and jot down the answers to the following questions:
- Are you over forty years of age?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you have a family history of heart disease?
- Do you exercise regularly?
- Do you get short of breath when climbing the stairs or walking?
- What is your current cholesterol reading? Have you ever had it checked?
- When last have you seen the doctor for a general physical examination?
- Have you ever had an ECG (EKG)?
- Do you know whether or not you have high blood pressure?
I am guessing that someone reading this article may not be sure of several of the answers to these questions, all of which are very important. Apart from knowing your numbers (Blood pressure, cholesterol etc.) it is also important to make note of changes to your overall health and well-being. All of the questions mentioned above are related to the risk factors for heart disease. Having regular screening will go a long way in maintaining not only general health, but good heart health.
With regular screening your healthcare team is able to detect risk factors during their early stages, and make the necessary recommendations and changes to your treatment plan.
If you have already experienced a heart attack, have been diagnosed with heart disease or have a family history of heart disease, regular screening as advised by your doctor or specialist is critical to your heart health. For those of you who have been noncompliant the test results can also be a “wake-up call”.
Although your risk for cardiovascular disease increases as you get older, the American Heart Association has recommended that screening begin during your twenties.
Here are a few statistics which reinforce the benefits of knowing your numbers and adopting lifestyle changes. In a 1994 study published in the British Medical Journal Law, Wald and Thompson tested the effects of reduced cholesterol levels on the risk for ischemic heart disease. Results showed that by making moderate changes to one’s diet cholesterol levels could be reduced. Persons in their forties who achieved a 10% reduction in their cholesterol levels lowered their risk of ischemic heart disease by 50% and those in their fifties by 40%.
But it certainly isn’t just about persons who only present with risk factors such as high cholesterol. In persons with coronary heart disease, cessation of smoking seems to offer great rewards. Critchley and Capewell (2003) conducted a study involving smokers with heart disease. Those who stopped smoking following the onset of coronary heart disease or following an angioplasty procedure, had a considerably lower risk of death.
So take the plunge, schedule those appointments, follow through with your referrals and get to know your numbers. By knowing what is considered as “normal” results you will have a better understanding of the abnormal. Take care of your heart, service your heart and your heart will service you.
Law, M. R., N. J. Wald, and S. G. Thompson. “By how much and how quickly does reduction in serum cholesterol concentration lower risk of ischaemic heart disease?” British Medical Journal 308, no. 6925 (February 5, 1994): 367-72.
Critchley, Julia A., and Simone Capewell, MD. “Mortality Risk Reduction Associated with Smoking Cessation in Patients with Coronary Heart Disease.” JAMA 290, no. 1 (2003): 86-97.