Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of men and women in our country and is the leading cause of disability. Not only does it affect a person’s quality of life and have a bearing on everyone in your household, it also costs our country over $300 billion a year for medications, health care, and loss of work.
On the upside, statistics indicate the number of preventable deaths in individuals between the ages of 65 and 74 has declined, yet unfortunately, the figures remain consistent in those under the age of 65. This is something within our control that simply shouldn’t be overlooked. Further, statistics prove that men are more than twice as likely as are women to die from cardiac conditions that are preventable.
So, which of us are at a higher risk than others? A family history puts us in an elevated category for developing cardiovascular disease, as does race and ethnicity. More African Americans have been found to have high blood pressure than other ethnic group. Approximately two in every five African American adults suffer from hypertension, with less than half that number having their conditions under proper control.
It’s critical that we – as a whole and regardless of age and ethnicity – take better control of ourselves. We need to eat well-balanced meals, avoid becoming obese, exercise, smoke less, and pay attention to cholesterol levels. Sound overwhelming? Not really. A visit to a health care professional on a timely basis is a good beginning. This doesn’t have to mean losing work time and visiting a doctor on a regular basis. It does mean, however, that an annual examination that may include an EKG, lab work and a chest X-ray might be appropriate. A physician will likely recommend a mammogram for women who may let testing slide, while men may have PSA testing.
The examination should include a blood pressure reading. It’s important to realize that an elevated reading doesn’t imply you will be on medication for the rest of your life. Your physician will likely have you return a time or two more to determine if your numbers remain consistently high, and even then, he or she should sit down with you to determine if your diet and such things as salt intake may be to blame, or if the situation requires more than that.
An EKG will provide a baseline your physician can keep for his records should an issue occur that raises any red flags.
The lab work can determine if your cholesterol and sugar levels are within normal limits and if your food intake may be partially to blame. Nipping things in the bud may bring your levels to within normal limits without anything else being required. And, if your thyroid levels and other testing ordered may fall out of line, they too can be addressed. Should you be a smoker, a chest X-ray might be appropriate. This test doesn’t hurt, but it can certainly help and go a long way toward keeping your lungs healthy.
February is American Heart Month and you’re a vital part of your family. Increase your knowledge on how to prevent cardiovascular disease from occurring. Show your love to your loved ones by taking better care of yourself. You’ll be glad you did.