1. Cholesterol: Cholesterol is the fat made by the liver from the saturated fats that we eat. Cholesterol is essential for the health of the body cells but if there is too much in the blood then it can lead to severe heart disease. Cholesterol is carried in the blood stream by lipoproteins which mainly are of 2 types:
- LDL – Low density lipoproteins
- HDL – High density lipoproteins.
LDL is considered as bad cholesterol because it tends to build up on arterial walls increasing the risk of heart disease.
2. Blood Pressure: Blood pressure strains your heart leading to coronary heart disease. It causes your heart to thicken and become more stiff increasing the risk for stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, congestive heart failure etc.When high blood pressure exists with any other risk factor the chance of stroke increases with many folds.
At optimum level blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm of mercury. If blood pressure has gone above the normal level try lowering it with lifestyle approaches such as weight loss, increasing exercise, moderate alcohol intake, cutting down on salt and following healthy diet.
3. Exercise: More than 50 years of research has shown that the more physically active you are the lower is your risk of heart disease. Exercise promotes many beneficial changes in the heart and coronary arteries including increase in the antioxidant activities.
It can raise HDL levels and decrease triglycerides. It also reduces mental stress, one of the risk factors for increase in blood pressure. Exercise probably is the single most thing you can do to reduce the risk of heart disease.
4. Inflammation: Cholesterol is not the only marker of risk for heart disease. Body produces CRP C Reactive protein during the process of inflammation. It is correlated with heart disease. Inflammation of arteries has been linked with increase risk of heart disease. CRP is the marker of inflammation meaning its presence indicates an increase inflammation in the body.
5. Symptoms: The classic sign of heart disease is angina which causes chest pain, cold sweat, nausea and other symptoms. In some cases discomfort, shortness of breath, exhaustion, arm pain, shoulder pain are seen.
In women “Prinzmetals angina” is seen in which symptoms are seen in night at rest and generally caused due to coronary spasm.
If you feel any of the symptoms above please visit your clinician to make sure it isn’t heart disease.
6. Risk Assessment: For many years experts rely on risk assessment too based on Framingham study that estimates the risk of having a heart attack in the next 10 years by considering age, sex, smoking, cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
The Reynolds risk score considers the CRP and family history.
7. Depression: Depression is associated with an increase risk of fatal heart disease including sudden cardiac death even after correcting other risk factors. It is not that only depression causes heart disease, heart disease itself can lead to depression leading for second heart attack.
If you are having difficult time emotionally you should immediately seek help from mental health professional.
8.Sleep: Poor sleep hygiene often leads to increased blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart failure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, obesity etc.
Due to poor sleep the CRP levels too increase. Try and get 7-8 hours of regular sleep at night. If chronically you have disturbed sleep talk to your doctor.
9. Medications: Medications are very important part of staying healthy and preventing heart attack or stroke.
You have to remember following things:
- Take the medication as directed by your doctor
- Do not reduce the amount of medication you take on your own
- Do not stop taking medication until suggested by your doctor.
Understand the medications you are taking and how they work is the key step in managing your cardiovascular event.
So take your medicine regularly! If not for yourself then for your loved ones.
10. Investigations: Investigations are used to diagnose and guide treatment of heart disease. It is done to:
- Understand your risk for serious events like heart attack, stroke etc.
- Identify the cause of symptoms
- As part of emergency treatment
Knowing what king of tests you may undergo and how those tests work can help reduce your stress and time.