A good heart is better than all the heads in the world. A healthy heart is, of course, better than all the sick ones!
But how many of us can claim to have a healthy heart?
Not too many!
Although over the past 30 years, death rate from coronary heart disease (CHD) has decreased by 50 percent, the number of people who have heart attacks has not declined. CHD remains the leading cause of death among adults. One of every 5 deaths is due to heart disease.
Our capacity to keep people alive after a heart attack has considerably improved, but heart disease can be very disabling.
How can we change this?
There are certain risk factors over which we have no control. You cannot change your age or genes. Changing sex may not prove worthwhile.
But there is hope! About 40 years ago, researchers recognized that high blood cholesterol level, high blood pressure, and cigarette smoking to be main risk factors for CHD. The good news is that these risk factors can be modified to improve our health.
In the last 7 years, the role of cholesterol in prevention of heart disease and heart attack is better understood and recognized. In most cases, cholesterol lowering diet is the first line of treatment.
If this fails then there are now newer and better drugs to treat this problem. Besides lowering cholesterol levels in the blood, the drugs also work on blood vessel wall and blood cells to reduce clot formation and narrowing. This results in better blood and oxygen flow to heart muscles.
High density lipoprotein (HDL) is good cholesterol. Low density lipoprotein (LDL) is bad cholesterol. And there is triglyceride. All three need to be modified.
When is the best time to have cholesterol level checked? Some experts suggest screening asymptomatic males in their 40s and females in their 50s. Your doctor is the best person to guide you through this. He knows your risk factors and decides at what age screening is justified.
The next modifiable risk factor is high blood pressure. The risk increases progressively with increasing blood pressure. And blood pressure increases with age. It is believed that after the age of 50, high blood pressure may be more dangerous than high cholesterol level.
About 20 percent of population have high blood pressure. Half of these people will have associated heart disease. The vast majority of people with high blood pressure go undetected or untreated. This is dangerous.
It is important that you have your blood pressure checked out by your doctor on a regular basis. He will be the best person to advise you on appropriate diet or medication if there is a problem.
The third important factor is cigarette smoking. Active and to some extent passive (second hand smoke) cigarette smoking is one of the most important modifying risk factors for CHD.
We are well aware of the fact that smoking is a habit hard to break. But Stanford University of California has a success rate of up to 70 percent among people who previously had a heart attack, says the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
A study done in Ontario and California shows that California has the lowest smoking rate in North America, in part because of the state governments aggressive antitobacco campaigns. Only 19 percent of Californians smoke, compared to 31 percent of Ontarians.
The only way we can keep our heart healthy is to remind ourselves constantly that there are risk factors over which we have control. So have yourself checked out on a regular basis. Exercise atleast 5 times a week, eat healthy, and do not smoke. Having a good heart also helps!
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