Assessing Your Risk of Heart Attack
Heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women in the United States, claiming approximately one million lives annually
. We talked with Daniel Dunker, MD, FACC, a cardiologist with the Carondelet Heart Institute about heart disease and how you can fight it.
Can I really control whether a heart attack is in my future?
For the most part, yes. Not smoking, managing your weight, nutrition, cholesterol and physical activity will contribute to managing your blood pressure and your likelihood of heart disease.
What about genetics or a family history of heart disease?
You can't control your gender or your ethnic makeup. Men statistically have more heart attacks than women. People of African-American, Native American, Latino and some Asian-Americans have higher rates for heart disease partly due to rates of obesity and diabetes among the cultures. Age is also a factor—82 percent of people who die from heart disease are 65 or older. All the more reason to identify, treat and control any other risk factors you may have.
My cholesterol is under 200. Isn't that okay?
It depends on several other risk factors. As your cholesterol rises, so does risk of cardiovascular disease, especially if you have other risk factors such as high blood pressure or you smoke. Your cholesterol level is also affected by age, sex, heredity and diet. Here's where the numbers should be:
• LDL (bad) cholesterol:
• Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter)
– If you're at low risk for heart disease: Less than 160 mg/dL
– If you're at intermediate risk for heart disease: Less than 130 mg/dL
– If you're at high risk for heart disease (existing heart disease or diabetes): Less than 100mg/dL
• HDL (good) cholesterol: 40 mg/dL or higher for men and 50 mg/dL or higher for women
• Triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dL.
What are triglycerides and why do they matter?
Triglycerides are the main components of vegetable oils and animal fats. In humans, triglycerides help store unused calories. A high concentration in blood is associated with eating starchy, high carbohydrate foods and has been linked to hardening of the arteries and the risk of heart disease and stroke.
My job is stressful. Is that a risk factor?
It depends on the individual and what you mean by stress. Medical literature on stress and heart disease mostly refers to physical stress. But for many lay people, it means the emotional variety. Evidence is accumulating pointing to certain kinds of emotional stress, in some people and under certain circumstances, as a contributing factor to heart disease, or can help precipitate acute cardiac problems in people who already have heart disease.
You can schedule a personal heart assessment with The Carondelet Heart Institute for just $35. The screening provides a full cholesterol and triglyceride check, blood pressure, body fat analysis, and a family history and lifestyle review. Call 816-943-2787 to schedule.
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