CNN recently featured an article about a 47-year-old family man who died of a heart attack while skiing with friends. He was not overweight, was an active individual, and had been previously informed by his doctor that his cholesterol was fine. Many people think that heart disease is a problem of the old and obese, but sudden heart problems can very well occur in younger individuals. Our Medical Director Murdoc Khaleghi weighs in below about heart disease, the risks, and the best ways to approach prevention.
It is fairly well known that cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of men and women. There are many reasons for this, but one of them is you can not feel the risk that builds up for years before a heart attack or stroke happens. Most of us also think it is solely a disease of older people, the obese, or those who practice bad habits like smoking. We also feel that if our basic blood tests are okay, that is the end of the story.
Unfortunately, it’s not. Cardiovascular disease affects all people, and while certain lifestyle factors may increase risk, we may be at risk just from our genes or other factors we are not aware of. Though we may not be able to change our genes, there are nearly always things we can do to further reduce our cardiovascular risk. The key is identifying those risks.
We know that over half of people admitted to the hospital with heart attacks have a normal basic cholesterol. We also know that 2/3 of people with normal basic cholesterol have undiagnosed cardiovascular risks prevalent in other biomarkers, such as ApoB or Lp(a). Though well studied, these newer emerging risk factors have not completely diffused into our health care system for various financial, educational, and cultural reasons. Therefore, it’s up to consumers to take control of their health to identify these early risks. Doing so allows you to reduce these risks before they manifest in a heart attack or stroke, when there is only so much intervention that can be done. In other words, the greatest intervention is prevention, and now you have the power to prevent.