After reading Jennie Garth’s story in the latest issue of MyHealth from Capital Medical Center, you may have questions about heart disease, risk factors and how you can be proactive in preventing this disease.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease is a general term used to describe a number of conditions, all of which can be fatal, but are both treatable and preventable. The heart works with blood and blood vessels to transport needed nutrients, oxygen, carbon dioxide, hormones and many other materials needed for the body to function properly; therefore, it is vital this intricate transportation system is cared for and maintained. When this transportation system becomes damaged by heart disease, it can cause a host of other health problems.
How do I know if I’m at risk for heart disease?
The best way to know if you are at risk is by asking your doctor. Often, heart disease has no noticeable symptoms meaning you may not know of your specific risk until you consult with a doctor. It is vitally important to have regular checkups. If you’re seeing your doctor because you’re having symptoms or you have risk factors, it’s best to start with your primary care physician; however, you may soon be referred to a heart specialist (cardiologist). If you do not have a primary care physician, click here to find a listing of doctors at Capital Medical Center who will provide you with great care.
What are the risk factors?
It’s important to understand that some risk factors can be controlled while others cannot. As referenced in MyHealth, there are several main risk factors, including
- Age: Nearly 85 percent of people who die from heart disease are over 65.
- Family history: Those who have parents or other relatives with heart disease are more likely to develop it.
- Race: Heart disease risk is higher among African Americans, Mexican Americans and American Indians than Caucasians.
- Smoking: Smokers are two to four times as likely to develop heart disease as non-smokers.
- High cholesterol: Higher cholesterol means a higher heart disease risk.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure makes your heart work harder, making it more susceptible to heart disease.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Inactive lifestyles often lead to heart disease and other health problems.
- Excess weight: Even if you have no other risk factors, excess body fat puts you at a higher risk for heart disease.
- Diabetes: This is a serious risk factor. Nearly three-fourths of people with diabetes die from a heart-related disease or illness.
How do I prepare for my appointment with my doctor?
Because appointments can be brief, and because there’s often a lot of ground to cover, it’s a good idea to be prepared for your appointment.
- Ask how you can get ready to see the doctor. When you schedule an appointment, ask what you need to do in advance. Sometimes you may be required to restrict your diet or fast for a specified time period. All of this will depend on specific tests your doctor may want to perform.
- Make a list of any symptoms you have been experiencing. By explaining your symptoms your doctor will have a better understanding of what course of action to take.
- Write down your medical information. Tell your doctor about any conditions for which you have been diagnosed, all medications and supplements you take daily and your family medical history, especially if you have had close relatives who have or have had heart disease.
What can I do in the meantime?
The time is always right to make healthy lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking, adding healthy foods to your diet and becoming physically active are excellent ways to fight against heart disease and other related complications.