The topic today in Neighborhood Health Watch is heart disease, important risk factors and screening.
You can prevent heart disease by living a heart-healthy lifestyle. Quit smoking, manage stress, exercise for thirty minutes every day, if you can. Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Keep your weight in check and get enough quality sleep.
Dr. Ryan Melchior, Interventional Cardiologist with Chippenham Hospital's Levinson Heart Institute, says coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease. Thickening of the walls of the artery can lead to chest pain called angina and also to heart attacks down the road. Screening could save your life.
"A lot of the risk factors that lead to coronary disease are modifiable," said Dr. Melchior. "So, things like knowing your blood pressure. For diabetics, knowing your hemoglobin A1C. Knowing your cholesterol. All those things are the risk factors which you can modify and are important to watch. Another thing we sometimes consider for people who have a strong family history and some kind of moderate risk, is that we'll get a CT calcium score of the heart. What that is, is essentially a CAT Scan that shows whether or not you're developing atherosclerosis at a younger age. And for patients that have a high calcium score, it lets us really be aggressive with our risk factor modifications and put them on high dose cholesterol medicines. Sometimes, if that score is really high, it can lead to stress testing."
Screening is easy, yet so important. A big mistake people make, Dr. Melchior says, is to blow off the signs of heart disease as just indigestion or mild shortness of breath. He says if you start having symptoms to go get checked early.