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You May Be At Risk for a Stroke or Heart Attack

Blood pressure, cholesterol level among key factors

Study clarifies four top  risks for heart attack, strokes. Having just one risk factor such as high cholesterol or smoking–can significantly increase the odds of suffering a stroke or heart attack in your lifetime according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The research tracked more than 250,000 participants from 18 different studies over a period of 50 years. It is the first study to look at the risks for white and black men and women across the generations. Previously clinicians would calculate a patient’s risk by projecting into the next decade. Now, with such a broad data pool, doctors can predict the likelihood of a major cardiovascular event well into the future.

This information comes from a story in the Chicago Tribune reported by Bonnie Miller Rubin. Dr. Donald Lloyd- Jones, chair and associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and the study’s lead investigator shared his findings with the Tribune.

Q. What does the study tell us now that we didn’t know before?

  • A. We have known for decades that four risk factors–blood pressure, cholesterol levels, smoking and diabetes–are related to cardiovascular disease, which is the number one killer for men and women in the U.S. What we hadn’t appreciated is the long-term risks. We now know that whether male, female, black or white, the effect of the risk factors remained consistent in determining lifetime risk, regardless of when you were born.

Q. What do these findings mean?

  • A.  That regardless of your age, sex or race, if you have optimal risk factors, your chance of having a heart attack or stroke is really low. And if a peer of the same age, sex and race has even one of these factors, he or she has a dramatically higher chance of developing a cardiovascular event during their life span.

Q. How do you define opimal cholesterol and blood pressure levels?

  • A. Total cholesterol level of less  than 180, blood pressure is less than 120 on top and 80 on the bottom.

Q. Can you give me an example of how having even one risk factor increases your likelihood of stroke or heart attack?

  • A. Men who are 45 years old and have all four factors at optimal levels–in other words, optimal blood pressure,cholesterol and no smoking or diabetes–have only a 1.4 percent risk of a heart attack event in their lifetime. In contrast, adding just one risk factor raises the chances to 40 percent for men and 20 percent for women. With two it increases to 50 and 41 percent respectively.

Q. How much do genes play in all this?

  • A. At a certain point, genes do influence factors like cholesterol levels. You can’t completely change everything but you can trump a lot of that. By keeping these other things healthy, you can delay  the day when, say, you might need medication to take care of the part that you can’t accomplish solely through lifestyle changes.

Q. Are there other factors  that play a part in cardiovascular disease?

  • A. Sleep and stress clearly play into the incremental risk. We also know that shift work can mess up a person’s metabolic profile. There is some important research going on in these areas, but at the end of the day, it’s by maintaining the four big factors that you can dramatically reduce your risk.

Q. If you have less than ideal levels of  the Big Four, can you undo the damage?

  • A. Once placques start forming in the artery walls you can slow them down and stabilize them with lifestyle changes and medication, but you can’t make them go away completely. They’re still there, taking up space and potentially obstructing blood flow. So you can be a 35-year-old and have the arteries of a 55-year-old. That’s why it’s so important that young people understand the importance of their choices. That we really need to get our foot in the door now–while they’re in their 20s and 30s, even though heart disease might not get them until their 50s or 60s.

Q. Do you ever eat a hot dog or cheeseburger?

  • A. Unfair question! Of course I do. But that has to be done in moderation and it means I have to make a trade-off to reduce calories, fat and sodium elsewhere, and that I should go burn it off with a good brisk walk.

There are few things I can do to help you with most risk factors, but one I can do and that is to help remove stress from your life. How? If you need more money, a steady income flow either part or full-time. then you should look to taking me up on my exclusive offer to buy a copy of my book HOW TO BECOME A MAIL ORDER MILLIONAIRE and save $10. It’s available at all times from Amazon at the published price of $39.95 plus s&h, but to readers of my blog you can order it direct from the publisher for only $29.95 plus $3.50 s&h. Total $33.45. Just send a check or money order to SUPERIOR PRESS 333 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1032, Chicago, IL 60601. Sold on a risk free money back guarantee of satisfaction.

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