Be heart smart: Know your risk |

Be heart smart: Know your risk

Jon Tyler
Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare
Special to the Sun

With the progression of todayand#8217;s modern medicine and technological advances, a 50th or 60th birthday is no longer the personal crisis it was a generation ago. However, if you want to get the most out of your golden years, you canand#8217;t just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Be proactive with your health. The earlier you start, the more it will improve the quality and longevity of your life. A good place to start is having a healthy heart. Heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of Americans and one in three Baby Boomers have one type of cardiovascular disease (CVD) or another. Luckily, Boomers can still make a big difference in affecting their risk factors for a heart attack with healthy lifestyle changes.

Donand#8217;t assume you are low risk for a heart attack. While it may be true that men, obese people, and those with a family history of heart disease have a higher risk, donand#8217;t rely solely on these indicators. Those who care about their heart health need to look at the entire spectrum of risk factors. The most important factors are not visible and require regular monitoring. This includes frequently checking your cholesterol and blood pressure, quitting smoking and maintaining an active lifestyle. Another good screening to determine your cardiovascular disease risk is to undergo a stress test to see how well your heart handles varying degrees of exertion. Ask your doctor if this test is necessary.

Understand that standard risk factors only measure the chance of having a traumatic cardiac event within the next 10 years of your life.

and#8220;Most Americans are low risk for heart disease within the next 10 years of their life, but their lifetime risk is usually very high,and#8221; said Dr. B. Bottenberg, who specializes in cardiovascular risk reduction at Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare.

With the United Stateand#8217;s average life expectancy age approaching 80, standard risk methods are not a complete analysis for Baby Boomers. Therefore, we need to avoid complacency and a false sense of security when it comes to heart health. Luckily, there are many easy tips to help improve the health of your heart.

Online tests for cardiovascular disease can be found at This is good first step in determining your risk. Lifestyle changes such as regulating stress levels and reducing the salt content in your diet can also make a big difference in your health. Regularly monitoring your blood pressure and cholesterol are key indicators, but should not be the sole factors in your risk analysis.

Exercise, exercise, and more exercise.

and#8220;I canand#8217;t prescribe a pill that yields the benefits of a daily 2-mile walk,and#8221; said Dr. Bottenberg. He goes on to say the best drugs for reducing the risk for heart disease are statins, which reduce cholesterol and can reduce the risk of heart disease by 37 to 40 percent. According to the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, walking a half hour a day, six days a week can cut mortality rates from heart disease in half.

A stress test and even an angiogram may not be a complete analysis of your risk. New technologies have made risk evaluations more accurate and detect cardiovascular disease potential earlier than ever before. New Carotid IMT testing looks at the thickness of artery walls and has been proven to be the most effective when determining heart disease risk. Unfortunately, these developments are not yet used widely in the United States, so keep in mind that your risk level designation may still be incomplete.

Boomers should be optimistic of these new developments, but remember to not get a false sense of security when being evaluated as low risk. In fact, the best advice may be to not take your heart health for granted and live everyday like you are high risk.

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