Not all disease can be prevented but taking care of ourselves through lifestyle and health screenings can minimize our risks for serious health problems. The effects of cardiovascular disease are one of the biggest causes for early deaths in the United States; in fact, heart disease is the number one killer of women.
Cardiovascular Disease health screenings
Managing risk factors is a key part of preventing cardiovascular disease (also called coronary artery disease). Many people know that high blood pressure, high total cholesterol and high blood glucose are risk factors for cardiovascular disease but how do you know which risk factors you have? The best way to understand your risk factors is to request health screening tests at your wellness checks.
It is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly because high blood pressure doesn’t usually come with any symptoms. High blood pressure dramatically increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. If your blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg, you should get it checked at least once every two years, starting at age 20. If your blood pressure is higher, your doctor may want to check it more often. High blood pressure can be controlled through lifestyle changes or medication. Women over the age of 65 have a higher risk of high blood pressure than men, and African-American adults of all ages have a higher-than-average risk.
Fasting Lipoprotein profile (cholesterol and triglycerides)
Starting at age 20, a fasting lipoprotein profile should be taken every four to six years. This blood test measures total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides. Your doctor may request that you be tested more frequently if it has been determined that you’re at an increased risk for heart disease or stroke. Typically, cholesterol and triglycerides can be controlled through lifestyle changes or medication. Women over the age of 65 often have higher triglyceride levels than men.
A person’s body weight is used to calculate your body mass index (BMI). BMI is used to identify whether someone is at a healthy body weight and composition. About two out of every three adults are now overweight or obese.
Starting at age 45, you should have your blood glucose level checked at least every three years. High blood glucose levels put you at greater risk of developing insulin resistance, pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Undiagnosed and untreated diabetes can lead to many serious medical problems including heart disease and stroke. If you’re overweight and have at least one other cardiovascular risk factor, your doctor may recommend a blood glucose test even if you are under the age of 45 or more frequently than every three years.
Smoking, physical activity & diet
Smoking is a preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Your doctor should know that you smoke as he or she can suggest ways to help you quit. You may also wish to seek nutritional and diet advice from a registered nutritionist and physical activity habits from a certified personal trainer. Your doctor may also have helpful suggestions.
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