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Heart and cardiac risk

Understanding Cardiac Risk

The British Heart Foundation collates some very frightening statistics about heart disease. In the UK a heart attack occurs about every 5 minutes. Over seven and half million of us are living with heart or circulatory disease, causing a quarter of all deaths which equates to about a death every 3 minutes. It is a massive issue, both for individuals and for our health as a population.

What is the problem with cardiac risk

The problem with heart disease is that people are often completely unaware of it until they have a heart attack or start developing angina (heart related chest pain) by which point significant damage may already have been done. The good news about heart disease is that we understand its causes better than ever before and many of these causes can be addressed, which could prevent so much heart disease.

With heart disease being such a major health problem, research has been going on for decades to develop and refine our understanding of cardiac risks. Take the Framingham Heart Study in the USA as an example. It was started in 1948 and is still going and, alongside so much other research, is allowing us to help people avoid, and recover from, heart disease.

Cholesterol Blood Test and monitoring.

The most important thing is to monitor your cholesterol levels consistently. The only way to find out if your lifestyle changes are working is to have cholesterol monitoring in place.

This test is ideal for our subscription service.

Much of what needs to be done to protect your heart you will already know about, and much of it requires absolutely no medical tests or treatment. We know smoking is very bad for your heart, in fact 1 in 8 of deaths due to heart disease relate directly to smoking. We know exercise is good for the heart and the government advises us that just 150 minutes of moderate exercise spread across the week will reap huge rewards, which is a level of exercise that can easily be incorporated into daily life. Being overweight is another risk for our hearts that can be addressed without any medical intervention.

Other cardiac risks

Other risks are less tangible and harder to detect. You are unlikely to know that you have high blood pressure unless you get it checked and this is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease. Similarly, high cholesterol is unlikely to cause you any symptoms but may be silently damaging the arteries of your heart. Diabetes, and pre-diabetes, are also major risk factors for heart disease that you may not be aware of until there is a problem.

Some things you simply can’t help. There is not much you can do about being a man, or about getting older, both of which are also risk factors for heart disease. The development of other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis, which are both linked with higher incidence of heart disease, is beyond your control. But the presence of these uncontrollable risk factors might make you want to pay more attention to the risk factors you can control such as stopping smoking, exercising more, and checking your cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

In reality, all of the above risks contribute to your overall cardiac risks. In the UK, doctors use a calculator called the QRISK calculator that takes into account all of these things to work out what your individual risk is of having a heart attack or a stroke in the next 10 years. It is this 10-year risk that doctors use to help make decisions about the treatment of cholesterol or blood pressure. You can actually access this calculator yourself on the internet and, if you know your height, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, you can work out your own risk.

Monitoring cardiac risk

Blood pressure machines are now fairly cheap, widely available and easy to use, so keeping an eye on your own blood pressure has never been easier. In fact, even for people being treated by their doctor for high blood pressure, checking your blood pressure at home is usually more accurate than the one-off readings taken in the slightly stressful environment of a GP surgery or hospital clinic.

Checking for cholesterol and blood sugar levels is straightforward. It can be done either by a standard blood test in a phlebotomy clinic or as a finger prick test that you can do for yourself at home. A cholesterol test checks for total cholesterol as well as levels of LDL cholesterol (‘bad’ cholesterol), HDL cholesterol (‘good’ cholesterol) and triglycerides (another kind of fat in the bloodstream that can contribute to heart disease). This level of detail is important to fully understand your risks.

Cholesterol Blood Test and monitoring.

The most important thing is to monitor your cholesterol levels consistently. The only way to find out if your lifestyle changes are working is to have cholesterol monitoring in place.

This test is ideal for our subscription service.

Although blood pressure, blood sugar problems and high cholesterol are often treated with medication, a lot can be done for all three of these problems through diet and lifestyle alone, particularly if the problems are identified early which may allow you to avoid medication.

Gaining an understanding of your cardiac risk is actually quite straight forward and doing so can empower you to take control of that risk.

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