Preventing Heart Disease Starts Now
You probably don’t think much about heart disease if you’re under 50 years of age. But heart disease is a killer – in fact, it’s the number one cause of death in the U.S. Your lifetime risk for developing heart disease after age 40 is nearly 50 percent if you’re a man and 32 percent if you’re a woman.1
Though it typically affects older Americans, many of the things that raise your risk of dying from heart disease start before you turn 50. Some risk factors that are present in your 40s — high blood pressure and cholesterol, being overweight, having diabetes and smoking — are highly predictive of future heart disease, according to a study of more than 25,000 Americans.2 Those who had none of these cardiovascular disease risks lived longer, healthier lives.
If you have a family history of heart disease — something you cannot change — your risk for heart disease is even higher. For example, if you’ve had a parent who has had a heart attack, your risk goes up 1.7 times.3
While you can’t change your family history, you can affect many other cardiovascular disease risk factors. The time to start is now. Talk to your primary care doctor about your risks for heart disease and what you can do to lower it.
Stress and Heart Disease
One of the biggest contributors to cardiovascular disease is stress. Stress both directly and indirectly infl uences heart disease risk.
Directly, it can raise blood pressure and cause your body to release hormones like adrenaline. This is a natural response to stress – and okay for the short term. But when it becomes chronic, it can influence lots of systematic problems including cardiovascular disease. Indirectly, stress also influences behaviors like smoking, drinking and overeating, which over time can affect heart disease risk. Smoking, alcohol use and being overweight are three major and controllable risk factors for heart disease.
There are many ways to mitigate the effects of stress; getting exercise, practicing mindfulness and meditation — even going for a walk can be effective. But if you’re struggling to manage stress, you should see your primary care doctor. He or she can help you come up with a plan to reduce the impact stress has on your body – and your heart.
Know Your Numbers
If you’re over 35, your primary care doctor is probably already testing your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. These types of fat in your blood stream serve different functions, but they’re also indicators of heart disease risk.
They’re not the only indicators, however. In fact, half of people who go the emergency room with a heart attack have normal cholesterol levels. So, what else is there? Inflammation. Inflammation can protect your body, like when you cut yourself shaving. Your body sends out cells to the source of the injury to clot blood and attack foreign substances. But inflammation can also damage your body, particularly when it happens in your blood vessels. Called vascular inflammation, it can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Most primary care doctors do not test for inflammation, but MDVIP-affiliated doctors can. As part of the MDVIP Wellness Program, they have the tools to test for biomarkers that may indicate the presence of inflammation or other factors that increase your risk for heart disease.
In one study, 40 percent more patients at risk for heart attack or stroke were identified by MDVIP-affiliated doctors using advanced testing than standard cholesterol tests.
Learn more about how MDVIP's primary care model can impact health outcomes.