Hede: Men take responsibility for your heart
Okay men, let's talk heart disease:
* It's the leading cause of death in the United States.
* In 2006, nearly $258 billion was spent on treatment.
* In persons older than 35, heart disease is responsible for nearly one third of all deaths.
* Three fourths of all deaths from coronary heart disease occur in emergency departments or before reaching the hospital.
* The incidence is higher in men than in women, and the death rate is even higher for men.
For these reasons, it is important that men acknowledge the impact of heart disease, however, the vast amount of information available is more than we can cover in this column. Therefore, I am giving you the information I think you need to know.
Know your risk factors.
Risk factors can be subdivided into those that are modifiable and those that aren't.
Non-modifiable risk factors include your age, gender and family history. Persons with first-degree relatives with heart disease are at higher risk for developing the same. If you do not know your family history, gather the data. Especially important is the age at which these family members were diagnosed and if there were any early deaths attributed to heart disease.
Modifiable risk factors are numerous, however, the Inter Heart Study, a large multi-country study, illustrated nine important risk factors that could be modified: smoking, high cholesterol/triglycerides, high blood pressure, diabetes, abdominal obesity, diet, regular alcohol consumption, physical activity and social issues (stress, income, living conditions).
Know your numbers.
* Cholesterol includes total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides. Simple blood work can be done to determine your numbers.
* Blood pressure should be checked regularly. Major risks are incurred if your top number (systolic BP) is greater than 140 and your bottom number (diastolic BP) is greater than 90. However, the latest data demonstrate that blood pressure goals should be less than 125/75.
* Abdominal obesity is also a risk factor. Body Mass Index in a nutshell is a measurement of obesity. A BMI of greater than 30 is considered morbidly obese. BMI of 25-29 is obese. Your physician or a dietitian can help you obtain these numbers.
* You should have regular blood sugar screenings, especially if you have a family history of diabetes. Normal fasting blood sugar levels range from 70 to 99. If your levels are 100 or higher, you could have pre-diabetes or diabetes.
Know your lifestyle.
Sedentary lifestyles, diets high in processed foods and saturated fat, smoking, high stress levels, and heavy alcohol consumption can increase risk of heart disease. Studies have proven that adopting a healthy lifestyle is important in preventing heart disease at any age. This includes:
* Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables and avoiding saturated and trans fats.
* Striving for 30 minutes of continuous activity three to five days per week.
* Avoiding smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.
* Drinking alcohol in moderation, which is no more than two drinks a day for men.
* Reducing stress.
Know your supplements.
Many people take supplements to improve their health. Some may be helpful; others can be harmful. The United States Preventative Task Force has found insufficient evidence to recommend for or against the use of antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, E for prevention of heart disease. Some studies have found that overuse of these antioxidants can be detrimental. I regularly recommend certain supplements to my patients, but the research in this field is confusing and often contradictory so be sure to talk to your physician before beginning any supplementation.
Know the symptoms of a heart attack.
Many men ignore the initial signs or symptoms of a heart attack. When symptoms occur, time is of utmost importance. Ignoring symptoms or delaying medical assistance can prove fatal. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but most start slowly.
The American Heart Association lists these signs:
* Chest discomfort that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. It may feel like a pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. It can even feel like indigestion.
* Discomfort in areas of the arms, back, neck or jaw.
* Shortness of breath that occurs with or without pain.
* Dizziness, nausea or cold sweats.
If you experience these signs or symptoms don't wait more than five minutes before calling 911.