Over 600,000 Americans die from cardiovascular disease (CVD) every year in the United States. In fact, CVD – not cancer – is the leading cause of death for both men and women, and it affects people from all walks of life. The victims of CVD include business executives, accountants, peace officers, fire fighters, teachers, salespeople, laborers, athletes, and on and on. Sadly, they sometimes include doctors and nurses. They are African Americans, Hispanics and whites. They are fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, other close relatives, and friends. And, many times, their deaths – and the horrific effects on their loved ones – could have been prevented.
So how does something like this happen? What you don’t know about your health can be extremely harmful … even lethal. For example, there is something called Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), that – as the name implies – happens without any warning. According to the Heart Rhythm Society (Heart Rhythm Society), two-thirds of SCA deaths occur without any prior indications of heart disease. SCA occurs when the heart’s electrical system fails, the heart stops beating, and blood is no longer being pumped throughout the body.
In fact, one in three Americans already have heart disease. Louisiana has the 5thhighest death rate from cardiovascular disease in the country. There is a tremendous risk for the cardiovascular plaques people with CVD have to rupture (break open). When they do, a blood clot can form on the ruptured plaque, blocking the flow of blood. This, in turn, can cause a catastrophic event, such as a heart attack or stroke.
Can cardiovascular disease be prevented? For most, yes! Here are some questions that many physicians are not asking but which need to be answered to accurately assess your risk:
- How does your body produce and absorb cholesterol? Your body can actually absorb more cholesterol from food that would keep it from working as it should, and your liver could be over producing cholesterol!
- Do you have inflammation in your artery walls? Artery walls can become inflamed, which weakens and scars the artery wall lining, making it easier for cholesterol to attached and form blockages. This can be measured!
- Do you have insulin resistance or pre-diabetes? Insulin resistance or prediabetes indicates that too much sugar is present before it causes serious problems. Sugar crystals are like glass and can tear and cause damage to your artery walls.
- Are you genetically predisposed to dangerous clot formation? Each person’s inherited genes can affect their predisposition to heart disease.
As you can see, most of these questions involve modifiable risk factors. In fact, the INTERHEART study (Yusuf) indicates that 90% of the risk of myocardial infarction is easily modifiable and can be treated identified and effectively by a qualified cardiovascular prevention specialist.
Preventive care is the key to minimizing your chances of being affected by cardiovascular disease. There have been exciting advancements recently, allowing physicians to go beyond the standard of care that has not previously eradicated cardiovascular disease. A growing number of physicians are specializing in the specific prevention and treatment – including reversal! – of cardiovascular disease. These physicians are practicing cutting edge medicine, using advanced diagnostic testing only recently available, to access your individual risk. Therapies and lifestyle changes can be tailored specifically for each patient based on the results of this specific testing which includes advanced lipid (cholesterol) testing, testing for inflammation (in arteries), and metabolic and genetic testing as well as other advanced diagnostics tools such as imaging.
Make sure to see a physician that specializes in true cardiovascular disease prevention. An in-depth assessment is your first step to ensuring that you reduce your risk and improve your heart health. Do it, for yourself, and your loved ones.
Heart Rhythm Society. Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). Heart Rhythm Society. https://www.hrsonline.org/Patient-Resources/Heart-Diseases-Disorders/Sudden-Cardiac-Arrest-SCA. Published 2018. Accessed July 6, 2018.
Yusuf S. INTERHEART: A Global Case-Control Study of Risk Factors for Acute Myocardial Infarction. Medscape. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/489738. Published September 24, 2004. Accessed July 6, 2018.
Contributed by: Patrick Moore, MD, MBA