Cholesterol and Heart Disease Final

Myth #3: I’m a Type A personality, so a heart attack is inevitable.

Reality: Although a lot of attention has been paid to the negative health effects of the hard-driving, high-stress Type A lifestyle, many studies have found having this personality type alone does not correlate with a higher incidence of heart disease. However, some factors associated with a Type A personality – high blood pressure, smoking and lack of exercise – are risk factors for heart disease.

Feelings that have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease are depression, a negative outlook, and anger and hostility. This is not referring to an occasional episode of feeling down or angry, but to longstanding feelings of this nature.

Therefore, it is so important to make mental and spiritual health a priority in our lives and those of our loved ones. We should get help for depression and feelings of constant anger and hostility. Connecting with others can improve our sense of well being. Of course, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are extremely important for both physical and mental health.

Myth #4: Only middle-aged people have heart attacks.

Reality: Women are relatively protected from heart disease until they go through menopause. However, there are instances where this is not the case. Premenopausal women with diabetes, a genetic form of high cholesterol (known as familial hyperlipidemia), untreated high blood pressure, and those who smoke or are overweight, lose that protection.

These women are especially at risk for heart disease, no matter their age.

Not only can younger women have heart attacks in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, but they do. And they are often diagnosed incorrectly because no one expects a young woman to have a heart attack, especially since she may not have the typical symptoms (see Myth #1). If you think you are having a heart attack, even if you are young, follow the recommendations in Myth #1.

Myth # 5: My weight and cholesterol are normal, so I am not at risk for heart disease.

Reality: Although being at a healthy weight and having your total cholesterol within normal range are important for the health of your arteries, these factors aren’t enough to guarantee heart health. There are other risk factors that increase your chances of developing coronary artery disease (CAD). Some can be changed; others can’t.

Those risk factors that cannot be changed include getting older, gender, heredity, and having had a prior heart attack or stroke. The older you become, the more at risk you are.

Men are more at risk than pre-menopausal women; after menopause, women are equally at risk. Having a family member who has heart disease or who has had a heart attack at an early age is a major risk factor.

Those risk factors that can be changed are high blood pressure, diabetes, cigarette smoking, a sedentary lifestyle (being physically inactive on a routine basis), stress and depression, hormone replacement therapy in older women, high total cholesterol and being overweight.

Even if your weight and cholesterol are normal, if you have even one other risk factor, such as high blood pressure or a family history of CAD, then you are still at risk. In other words, you need to take into account all of these risk factors to get an accurate picture of your risk for CAD.

What can you do to make sure the chances of developing CAD are as small as possible? Have your blood pressure checked regularly, and ask your doctor to test your blood glucose and total cholesterol levels. Stop smoking now! Start exercising regularly. Talk to your doctor about stress reduction and options to control depression. Also, discuss your need for hormone replacement therapy after menopause; it should be taken for a limited amount of time, and some women should not take it at all.

Just as important, find out if anyone in your family has had a heart attack, or has CAD, and let your provider know. Even though you may have several risk factors that cannot be changed (and we all will have one of them eventually as we grow older!), it is important to be informed, so you can get regular heart check-ups well as the appropriate tests.

This is a case in which knowledge is truly power. If you know your risk factors for heart disease, then you have the power to make changes to keep yourself heart healthy.

Are You on the Road to a Heart Attack? Every 20 seconds a heart attack is occurring somewhere in the United States. Coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in this country, contributes to the 1.5 million heart attacks that occur each year. Will you become a part of this statistic? Find out if your ticker is going to keep ticking with this heart attack quiz.

Janet Horn, M.D. and Robin H. Miller, M.D., authors of The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife and Beyond

1 comment:

Felicia said...

These are really good tips! Keep 'em coming!

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