• It’s Never Too Early to Think About Cardiovascular Disease Prevention

    by Dr. Scott Lafferty
    on Jun 19th, 2017

It’s safe to say that the majority of us have some level “invincibility” when we’re younger. Not actual invincibility, mind you, but the perception of it. We can eat whatever we want and not worry about it. We act a bit reckless. We can function (poorly) on a couple hours of sleep after a long night out on the town. Granted, these behaviors often catch up with us. What many people don’t realize is that while for a certain number of years they can bounce back easily from eating an entire pizza pie and washing it down with a few beers, you’re still affecting your health. At no point are we invincible, even if we don’t pack on the pounds from our poor lifestyle habits.

That’s why it’s never too early to think about cardiovascular disease prevention. While many consider cardiovascular disease to be something that happens when you’re older, that’s no reason to not take it seriously in your 20s and 30s. After all, cardiovascular disease doesn’t really just appear. It’s the culmination of years of lifestyle choices or living with a condition that predisposes you to heart disease. Also, many conditions that develop due to lifestyle are increasingly affecting younger people for a variety of reasons.

Since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States it’s important to prepare yourself with the facts. Cardiovascular disease prevention is easier the younger you are, so the changes you make today can greatly alter your future when you reach the age where a heart attack could become a real possibility. Here is what you need to know about cardiovascular disease, what to get tested for, and how to lead a healthier life.

What are the risk factors?

There are a considerable amount of risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Some like genetics and age can’t be helped. But, the majority of risk factors are things that can be controlled with lifestyle changes or medication. For example, some of us are predisposed to high cholesterol. Perhaps you or someone you know was actually born with high cholesterol. Diet, while important, clearly wasn’t the culprit in that instance. However, if your body produces too much cholesterol, medication can help manage it. The vast majority of people with high cholesterol or high blood pressure (the two leading risk factors) have these conditions due to diet, a sedentary lifestyle, or other behaviors that can and need to be modified. Smoking is another huge risk factor. If you smoke, quitting is essential to your cardiovascular health.

Obesity, which is recognized as a widespread public health crisis, contributes to both heart disease and rising diabetes rates. Diabetes itself is damaging to your heart and can contribute to cardiovascular disease. You’ll notice that many of these conditions are related to one another. By adopting a healthier lifestyle, you can lower your chances of serious chronic health conditions across the board.


What kind of testing is available?

Most people are familiar with a blood test to check their cholesterol levels and getting their blood pressure checked with a cuff. While certainly helpful, they don’t tell the whole story when it comes to cardiovascular disease prevention. There are other, more detailed tests that can be run to evaluate your risk levels. For example, there is the advanced lipids panel which gives a more in-depth look into the components of your blood, including the various types of cholesterol like LDL and HDL. A CIMT is an ultrasound of your carotid arteries, which can show plaque buildup and warning signs of a stroke. Genetic testing can show the risks you were born with so you can act accordingly. There is also an oral DNA test which evaluates periodontal disease. Gum disease is a contributor to cardiovascular disease.


How can you prevent heart disease?

While genetic predisposition is something you can’t help, that doesn’t mean there aren’t many things you can do to better your odds of staying heart disease free. If you are overweight, you have to strive to get your weight down to a healthy level. If you’re already diabetic, keeping it under control will be key to your long term health. Smoking needs to stop as soon as possible. While it can be hard to get in physical activity, especially if you sit at a desk all day, making the time for moderate to high intensity cardio workouts at least three times a week will benefit your health in many ways. Being mindful of your diet is also very important. Limit your intake of saturated fats.


Conclusion

Cardiovascular disease prevention is something that everyone needs to look into. Nearly half of the population has at least one of the major risk factors for heart disease. Identifying the risk factors and taking action are essential to your health later in life. Because risk and damage are cumulative, the earlier you make changes, the better off you’ll be. Contact us today to schedule an appointment. Dr. Lafferty and his team are dedicated to providing you with the care you need to live a healthier, longer life.

Author Dr. Scott Lafferty

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