1.TAKE RESPONSEBLITY OF YOUR HEALTH.
Cardiovascular disease is the major cause of death in America, accounting for 34 percent of deaths, many suddenly and almost all of them premature. This is down from 40 percent just four decades ago, mainly due to treatment of common risk factors. If you have diabetes, your risk increases dramatically. The best prevention against heart disease and stroke is to understand the risks and treatment options. The greatest risk is ignorance or misinformation. The first step is to take responsibility for your health.
2. KNOW YOUR RISKS.
The most influential risk factor for cardiovascular disease is age – the older you are, the greater your risk. The second is your genetic make-up. Although everyone is excited by the scientific progress in genomics research, conclusive gene tests are still in their infancy. But, as I tell our medical students, “A good family history is a poor man’s gene test.” We have long known that if your parents, grandparents, or other relatives were afflicted with or died of heart disease, diabetes or stroke, your risk is much greater
The evidence is overwhelming that cigarette smoking and second-hand exposure to smoke increases the risks of heart disease, lung disease, peripheral vascular disease and stroke.
4.MAINTAIN A HEALTHY BLOOD PRESSURE.
High blood pressure, called hypertension, is known as “the silent killer” as it goes without symptoms in most individuals. High blood pressure causes wear and tear of the delicate inner lining of your blood vessels. The higher your blood pressure (BP) the greater your risk. The risk begins to increase from a pressure of 115/70 mmHg and doubles for each 10 mmHg increase in systolic (the larger number) and 5 mmHg increase in the diastolic (the smaller number). Heredity and increasing age raise the risks. Measuring blood pressures at home reflects more accurately your risk than having the blood pressure taken at a physician’s office. It is worth the investment to get a cuffmeter.
It is best not to rely only on the readings at your doctor’s office as some individuals suffer from “white coat” hypertension – their BP is up only when they are at the doctor’s office. Others have “masked” hypertension – higher when not in the doctor’s office. Prognosis is best related to home BP. But for home blood pressure readings, you should not use finger or wrist units – only regular upper arm units.
5.MONITOR YOUR CHOLESTEROL.
Abnormal or high blood lipids (fats) are a major contributor to cardiovascular disease. Your blood lipids include the LDL (bad cholesterol; remember as “Lousy cholesterol”), HDL (good cholesterol; remember as “Healthy cholesterol”) and triglycerides. The lower your LDL and the higher your HDL, the better your prognosis. The amount of cholesterol in your blood is determined mainly by three factors: the amount produced by the liver (this is largely genetic), the amount absorbed from the intestinal tract (some from what you eat, but a lot more from cholesterol produced by the liver and excreted into the digestive tract) and, finally, age – your cholesterol increases with age. If you are at risk, medication is almost always necessary to lower the LDL or to raise your HDL. The ideal ratio of total cholesterol divided by HDL cholesterol is 3.0. If higher, you might need diet as therapy. The problem with diet is that, in general, it can only decrease total blood cholesterol by about 10 percent. If you have a strong family history or elevated Lp(a) (a rare abnormal cholesterol that increases the risk), drug therapy is usually needed.