Heart disease is the #1 killer of men and women in the world.The risk factors for heart disease for men and women include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes and prediabetes, smoking, being overweight, being physically inactive (less than 2.5 hours of physical activity per week), having a family history of early heart disease, having a history of preeclampsia during pregnancy, unhealthy eating, and being 55 or older.
Obviously, if you have more than one of these risk factors – the risk increases for getting heart disease.
How Do I Find Out if I Am at Risk for Heart Disease?
The first step toward heart health is becoming aware of your own personal risk for heart disease. Some risks, such as smoking cigarettes, are obvious:But other risk factors, such as high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol, generally don’t have obvious signs or symptoms. So you’ll need to gather some information to create your personal “heart profile.”
You and Your Doctor: A Heart Healthy Partnership
A crucial step in determining your risk is to see your doctor for a thorough checkup. Your doctor can be an important partner in helping you set and reach goals for heart health. But don’t wait for your doctor to mention heart disease or its risk factors.Here are some tips for establishing good, clear communication between you and your doctor:
Speak up. Tell your doctor you want to keep your heart healthy and would like help in achieving that goal. Ask questions about your chances of developing heart disease and how you can lower your risk. Also ask for tests that will determine your personal risk factors.
Keep tabs on treatment. If you already are being treated for heart disease or heart disease risk factors, ask your doctor to review your treatment plan with you. Ask: Is what I’m doing in line with the latest recommendations? Are my treatments working? Are my risk factors under control? If your doctor recommends a medical procedure, ask about its benefits and risks. Find out if you will need to be hospitalized and for how long, and what to expect during the recovery period.
Be open. When your doctor asks you questions, answer as honestly and fully as you can. While certain topics may seem quite personal, discussing them openly can help your doctor find out your chances of developing heart disease. It can also help your doctor work with you to reduce your risk. If you already have heart disease, briefly describe each of your symptoms. Include when each symptom started, how often it happens, and whether it has been getting worse.
Keep it simple. If you don’t understand something your doctor says, ask for an explanation in simple language. Be especially sure you understand how to take any medication you are given. If you are worried about understanding what the doctor says, or if you have trouble hearing, bring a friend or relative with you to your appointment. You may want to ask that person to write down the doctor’s instructions for you.
Have an ankle-brachial index test. Starting in your 60s, it’s a good idea to get an ankle-brachial index test as part of a physical exam.
The test assesses the pulses in the feet to help diagnose peripheral artery disease (PAD), a lesser-known cardiovascular disease in which plaque builds up in the leg arteries.
Watch your weight. Your body needs fewer calories as you get older. Excess weight causes your heart to work harder and increases the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Exercising regularly and eating smaller portions of nutrient-rich foods may help you maintain a healthy weight.You may notice your metabolism slowing down in your mid 40s. But you can avoid weight gain by following a heart-healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise. The trick is to find a workout routine you enjoy.If you need motivation to get moving, find a workout buddy.
Have your blood sugar level checked. In addition to blood pressure checks and other heart-health screenings, you should have a fasting blood glucose test by the time you’re 45.This first test serves as a baseline for future tests, which you should have every three years. Testing may be done earlier or more often if you are overweight, diabetic or at risk for becoming diabetic.
Don’t brush off snoring. Listen to your sleeping partner’s complaints about your snoring.One in five adults has at least mild sleep apnea, a condition that causes pauses in breathing during sleep. If not properly treated, sleep apnea can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.