To Your Health: Know risk factors for cardiovascular disease
By Dr. Srinivas Reddy January 29, 2013 1:48PM
Updated: March 1, 2013 6:35AM
Having a healthy heart begins with knowing your risk factors.
Cardiovascular disease kills more than 600,000 people in the United States each year. It is the most common cause of death and also one of the most preventable.
Cardiovascular disease includes coronary artery disease, which can cause a heart attack or angina. It also includes strokes, peripheral vascular disease, congestive heart failure and others.
Non-modifiable risk factors are those you cannot change. For example, men 45 or older and women 55 and older are at a higher risk of heart disease.
Having a family history of heart disease also increases your risk. Even if you are 30 years old, if your parents or close relatives have had a heart attack, it’s advisable to start taking care of yourself now.
After menopause, women are as likely as men to have a heart attack. In the first year following a heart attack, a man’s mortality rate is about 25 percent and a woman’s is about 38 percent.
Modifiable risk factors are those you can control or change.
Among the most documented and studied is smoking. Smokers are four times more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than non-smokers.
The other top modifiable risk is diabetes, followed by high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity.
These conditions are all controllable with medications and lifestyle modifications. Some people who lose weight and increase physical activity not only improve their cardiovascular health, but find that they no longer need to take medications.
It’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Everyone’s situation is unique, so it’s important to see your doctor regularly. Ask your doctor to assess your personal risk factors for heart disease. He can take a complete family history, perform tests and make recommendations based on the findings.
Once you reach the age of risk or if you have a family history of heart disease, you should have routine blood work performed each year. It’s important that people know their numbers, meaning, they should know their blood pressure, cholesterol and if diabetic, their blood sugar levels. In many cases, people are surprised to learn they are pre-diabetic or have high cholesterol or blood pressure.
That’s why the Heart and Vascular Institute at Franciscan St. James Health is launching a campaign to help men and women older than 40 to get a peek into their hearts’ futures.
To celebrate National Heart Month, Franciscan St. James has set a yearlong goal of performing 1,000 free heart screens, in an effort to help save 100 lives.
The Screen 1,000 Hearts screening now offered by St. James includes ankle brachial index, body mass index, blood pressure, fasting blood sugar and waist girth. A $135 value, the screening is available for free to adults age 40 and older and available until Dec. 31.
To get your free heart screen, complete the Franciscan St. James free online heart risk assessment at FranciscanStJames.org. Upon completion, St. James will send a certificate for a free heart screening.
Remember, cardiovascular disease can be highly preventable. In addition to knowing your numbers, get out there and move more, make healthy food choices, lose weight if you need to and live tobacco-free. Because every person is different, you should talk with your doctor to learn more about your risk.
Dr. Reddy is an independent, board certified cardiologist, who practices at the Franciscan St. James Health Heart and Vascular Institute in Olympia Fields. Franciscan St. James is a member of the Southland Health Alliance.