BOOMER Health: Cardiovascular Disease
Testing for a longer, better life
For baby boomers, cardiovascular disease can’t be taken lightly.
“It’s a naturally occurring, age-related disease,” says Dr. Tara Dall, chief medical officer at Health Diagnostic Laboratory (HDL) in Richmond. “Your risk increases significantly every 1o years, regardless of genetics or lifestyle.”
It’s crucial, she says, that boomers are educated on the disease and do all they can to prevent it.
THIS IS THE BIG ONE
Heart disease is the number-one cause of death today. About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s one in every four deaths.
Cardiovascular disease occurs when blood vessels are narrowed or blocked, leading to heart attacks, chest pains and strokes. Numerous factors make one susceptible, whether genetic predisposition or lifestyle (smoking, drinking excessively, excessive sugar intake and too much processed food, stress and strain on the body).
We may like to think technology offers a simple fix – a splint, a new device, procedure or medicine.
“When people suffer a heart attack, they suffer substantial damage to the heart muscle,” Dall says, “and sometimes that muscle cannot be regenerated.”
Heart attack victims may survive, but their quality of life sometimes diminishes.
“If we do the right things,” she says, “we’ll most likely see years added to our life. But it’s really about quality of life: our ability to do without pain and fatigue and depression, which cause us to lose productivity and the joy in life we all have a right to experience.”
She recommends 10,000 steps a day (pedometers help) and paying attention to what we’re putting into our bodies.
General blood tests indicate high cholesterol and high blood pressure – key indicators of cardiovascular disease. And it’s crucial that your doctors know your family health history, that you take their advice, exercise and eat healthy.
But these traditional ways don’t tell the entire story: more than 50 percent of people who’ve had a heart attack have normal cholesterol levels – and were never identified as being at risk. “It’s just so much more powerful to identify risks for heart attacks and strokes in people 10 to 15 to 20 years before anything ever occurs,” Dall explains. “And if these risks are identified, so much can be done to modify that risk and eliminate the disease that’s on the path to development.”
HDL employs advanced testing biotechnologies that uncover “hidden” warning signs – “biochemical markers” – that indicate problem areas, indicators of illnesses.
The process is simple: a patient’s doctor draws blood and sends it to HDL. Once the results are returned, the patient contacts an assigned clinical health consultant (CHC) who interprets results and points out problem areas and other risk factors. Treatment suggestions – lifestyle changes, nutrition advice, etc. – are offered in a personalized plan. A follow-up test is recommended three to six months after initial testing.
UNCOVERING THE PROBLEMS EARLY
“When you have cardiovascular disease, it usually doesn’t start that way,” says Kim Slominsky, a CHC with HDL. “It could have been diabetes that had gone on for 10 years undiagnosed that’s now turned into heart disease. It usually starts with something else.”
One aspect of the test measures the size of the low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the “bad”) particles, which carry cholesterol; when they’re too small in size, they get stuck in the artery wall and cause problems.
The test, which is covered by many insurance plans, also checks for inflammation, health-related problems one may be genetically predisposed to, total cholesterol, triglycerides and an assortment of heart and
Daniel Jones is BOOMER’s staff writer. Contact him at Daniel@TheBoomerMagazine.com. Read his blogs at TheBoomerMagazine.com.