Dr. Raj Karnik is a board certified cardiologist with University of Toledo Physicians-Heart and Vascular and a member of Fisher-Titus Medical Center's medical staff. His office can be reached at 419-660-2751. Karnik is a guest columnist.
Hede: Take advantage of free blood pressure readings
During a recent physician forum, a community member asked me a great question. Is there a screening to indicate whether a person has heart disease? I would like to share my answer with everyone.
Although there is not a concrete test, such as a PAD screening for peripheral artery disease, there are three simple ways you can monitor your risk for heart disease: visiting your family physician regularly, knowing your cholesterol numbers and monitoring your blood pressure.
Regular visits to your doctor
Partnering with your primary physician and cardiologist to know and understand your numbers will help access your risk for heart disease. Your physician has many ways to monitor your heart's health: blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides. Additionally, fasting blood glucose levels monitor your risk for diabetes, which impacts your risk for heart disease.
Know your cholesterol numbers
To travel in the bloodstream, cholesterol is carried in small packages called lipoproteins. LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol is sometimes called "bad" or "lousy" cholesterol. HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol is sometimes called "good" or "healthy" cholesterol.
High blood cholesterol itself does not cause symptoms so many people are unaware if their cholesterol level is too high. It is important to find out your cholesterol numbers annually because lowering cholesterol levels lessens the risk for developing heart disease and reduces the chance of a heart attack or dying of heart disease, even if you already have it.
Everyone age 20 and older should have their cholesterol measured at least once every five years. It is best to have a blood test called a "lipoprotein" or "lipid" profile to find out your cholesterol numbers. This blood test, performed after a nine-to-12-hour fast, gives information about your total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides.
In general, the higher your LDL level and the more risk factors you have (other than LDL), the greater your chances of developing heart disease or having a heart attack.
A large debate is under way on whom should be on cholesterol lowering medications, but it is important to discuss all your risk and benefit factors with your physician.
Monitor your blood pressure
Blood pressure is always given as two numbers, one written before the other: the systolic and diastolic pressures. Systolic blood pressure represents the pressure against your blood vessels when the heart is contracting (pumping blood to your body). Diastolic blood pressure represents the pressure in your vessels as the heart relaxes.
A typical blood pressure reading for an adult might be 118/78 mm Hg, but readings vary depending on age and other factors. Normal blood pressure is defined by a range of values so don't be alarmed if your own reading is somewhat higher or lower.
The American Heart Association recommends your doctor or another qualified health professional check your blood pressure at least once every two years and more often if it's high. If you have not been to your family physician recently, it may be time for a general checkup.
Your blood pressure can be affected by the time of day, what you have eaten, your other medications and so on. It is better to have it monitored periodically to get an average reading. Just having it checked during a doctor's visit when you are ill or have "white coat syndrome" is not always the most accurate. If you are curious to see if your blood pressure has changed since your last doctor's visit, Fisher-Titus Medical Center nurses also provide free blood pressure readings at various locations around the area monthly:
* 12:30-2:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month at Wal-Mart, 340 Walton Blvd., Norwalk.
* 3-6 p.m. the first Thursday of the month at Apples, 205 Milan Ave., Norwalk.
* 10 a.m.-noon the second Friday of the month at Milan Public Library, 19 E. Church St., Milan.
* 12:30-2:30 p.m. the second Friday of the month at Bennett Pointe Senior Apartment Homes, 11 Bennett Lane (off Stower Lane ), Norwalk.
* 3-6 p.m. the second Friday of the month at Gardner 's Super Valu, 117 Whittlesey Ave., Norwalk.
* From 10 a.m.-1p.m. the third Thursday of the month at Schild's IGA, 171 Milan Ave., Norwalk.
* 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed noon - 1 p.m.) Monday-Friday at Fisher-Titus Specialty Services, 111 E. Main St. , New London.