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Posts Tagged ‘Heart Attack’

The 4 Risk Factors To Avoid Stroke or Heart Attack

Blood Pressure, Cholesterol Level Among Key Factors!

 

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 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 a broad data pool, doctors can predict the likelihood of a major cardiovascular event well into the future, explained 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.

In an interview of Lloyd-Jones reported by Chicago Tribunereporter Bonnie Miller Rubin, he shared his findings with the Tribune.

  • 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 No. 1 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.

  • What do  these findings mean?

A. That regardless of your age, sex or race, if you have all 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.

  • How do you define optimal cholesterol and blood pressure levels?

A. Total cholesterol level of less than 180, blood pressure is less than 20 on top and 80 on the bottom.

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

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 event in their lifetime. In contrast, adding just one risk factor raises the chance to 40 percent for men and 20 percent for women. With two, it increases to 50 and 41 percent, respectively. 

  • 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.

  • 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 the risk.

  • 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 change 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 20’s and 30’s, even though heart disease might not get them until their 50’s or 60’s.

  • Do you ever eat a hot dog or a 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.

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