Healthy Hearts are Happy Hearts
Although there has been improvement over the years as to the impact of heart disease and health, cardiovascular disease is still the number one cause of death in men and women in the United States. Every year, February is the hallmark of American Heart Month. Thinking of Valentine’s Day is a good opportunity to do a little self-assessment and personal reflection of your heart health status and risks.
High blood pressure is one of the common contributors to heart disease and stroke. Known as the “silent killer” there are no warning signs or symptoms to alert its presence. It is estimated that one in three people have high blood pressure, but only about half are controlled. A very simple screening test is to check your blood pressure. To be aware of risks changing as time goes by, these checks should be done regularly. If you have high blood pressure, there are steps to take to treat and control it. Lifestyle changes and medication are commonly used to treat this problem.
Elevated cholesterol is another concern. High lipids can contribute to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, or ASCVD. This problem leads to the blocking of arteries in the heart and other parts of the body. As this plaque builds up in arteries, the circulation lessens over time, again contributing to the risk of heart attack and stroke. There again, lifestyle and dietary changes as well as medications are available to address these problems. A simple blood test can check cholesterol levels.
Diabetes and prediabetes are problems with different levels of elevated blood sugar. Again contributors to cardiovascular risk, high blood glucose over time will lead to damage to the heart, kidneys, blood vessels and nerves. This damage leads particularly to the risk of heart attack and stroke as well as other organ failure. Treatment again consists of medication and lifestyle changes.
The other risks on the checklist are those of lifestyle and behavior issues. Physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, obesity, excess alcohol and smoking are all concerns that remarkably increase the impact and threat to cardiovascular health. Your annual wellness exam commonly is a covered benefit by most commercial health insurances. This visit is an excellent starting point to address these concerns, risk factors, lifestyle changes and medications if needed in treating these problems and reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease. Make your pledge to yourself and loved ones this month to step up to the plate and commit to have a healthy, happy heart!
Bradford Croft, DO
East Flagstaff Family Medicine