There are four major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. These factors can increase an individual’s chance of having a heart attack. The same factors apply to cerebrovascular disease, which can lead to a stroke. Heart attack and stroke are the leading cause of death in our country.
Cardiovascular Risk Assessment
The first major risk factor is smoking. This factor can be eliminated by not ever smoking or decreased by quitting.
The second factor is high blood pressure. This can only be detected through measurement of the blood pressure. The optimal blood pressure is less than 140 systolic, which is the top number, and less than 90 diastolic, which is the bottom number. High blood pressure may be present without causing any symptoms. There are medications that can lower blood pressure. Weight reduction, exercise, and salt restriction can help reduce blood pressure also.
The third major risk factor is diabetes. Diabetes can present with symptoms of excessive thirst and urination. A blood test will confirm a diagnosis of diabetes. A blood test may be appropriate for screening in certain cases.
Cholesterol elevation is considered the other major risk factor. Cholesterol levels can be measured by a blood test. There are different types of cholesterol. Total cholesterol levels are optimally less than 200. The LDL is considered the “bad” cholesterol. The HDL is considered the “good” cholesterol. The National Cholesterol Education Program has established guidelines for treatment depending on the level. The treatment will depend on other risk factors or history of vascular disease.
By measuring blood pressure, blood sugar, the Cholesterol profile, and by asking your smoking status, your health care provider can help assess your risk for cardiovascular disease. Then you can work at making lifestyle changes or possibly take medications to lower your risk.