Cardiac Diseases -Prevention and Laboratory Tests
Who are prone to cardiovascular diseases? What tests are performed to determine this? How could one prevent this? Vital questions about the heart that we should answer.
People who are overweight or obese , who are hypertensive, have sedentary lifestyles, smoke and drink alcohol and who have a family history of heart attacks and strokes, are usually prone to cardiac ailments. If you have ticked two or more of these, then you must have an ECG stress test, thallium stress test, ECG, CT scan, and echocardiogram, and of course, the LIPID panel test. In the laboratory, the cardiac panel test commonly consists of :
The accepted values for each are:
* Cholesterol <200> 40 mg/dL (1.04 mmol/L)
* LDL-cholesterol <100 style="FONT-WEIGHT: bold; COLOR: rgb(51,51,255)">Eat lots of vegetables and fruits; e.g. apple, banana, oranges, grapefruit, garlic, watergourd, cucumber, and oatmeal. Fruits and vegetables are antioxidants (have carotenoids and flavonoids) and have lots of fibers to increase metabolism and reduce lipid build up. Oatmeal fibers help carry the bad cholesterol out from the body instead of allowing it to be absorbed by the blood.
2. Exercise 30 minutes everyday : 10 minutes of stretching and 20 minutes of brisk walking. The exercise will increase your blood flow, thereby avoiding the formation of lipid plaques or emboli in your blood vessels.
3. Lessen fat and dairy intake. This includes meat fat , ice cream, butter , etc. These are sources of LDL (bad cholesterol) which increases the blood levels of the lipids. When lipids are in excess in the blood, they tend to amass in the inner linings of the vessel and form “plaques”. The plaques prevent the normal flow of blood and may plug blood vessels when they rupture. Plaques may also block the vein in the heart and cause a heart attack.
4. Lower salt and sodium intake – this is to prevent the risk of hypertension. High sodium in blood increases the risk of stroke because of hypertension and renal dysfunction. Avoid canned vegetables, luncheon meat, pickles, bacon, cheese, canned soups because they are rich in sodium. Cereals can also be a rich source, so read food labels carefully.
5. Stop smoking – carbon monoxide facilitates the elevation of cholesterol and impedes the transport of oxygen; thereby increasing the risk of cardiac disease. Smoking lowers HDL (good cholesterol) too.
6. Maintain a healthy weight - Obesity is one factor that leads to hypertension and to cardiac disease. e.g. for a 50 yr old female of 5 feet the ideal weight is 128 lbs. There is no consensus however as to what exactly is an ideal weight. This will depend on the body fat , musculature, metabolism and health of the patient. Almost all clinics have a BMI chart to which you can refer to.
7. Be sure you do not have diabetes – having diabetes is one predisposing factor to cardiac ailment. Diabetic patients have greater chances of acquiring heart disease because of insulin resistance that may lead to hyperlipidemia (increased blood concentration of lipids). The formation of plaque or emboli in the veins (atherosclerosis) is also enhanced in a person with diabetes.
8. Daily intake of aspirin has been proven in studies to have reduced by 25 % the risk of vascular attacks according to the British Journal of Medicine dated January 2002. The risk of internal bleeding however, should be considered in patients who may adversely respond to it. Aspirin has an anti-platelet activity which prevents emboli formation inside the blood vessels. A dosage of 80- 160 mg is usually the standard dose. Your attending physician should decide whether it is beneficial to you or not.
9. Stop alcohol consumption –Alcohol elevates triglycerides which can lead to stroke and heart attack. It also increases blood pressure and leads to obesity; all factors that contribute to the increase of heart attack. Researches claiming that red wine reduces HDL are still not approved by the AHA (American Heart Association) because there is no scientific proof to the claims. Locally, the old folk in the barrio drinking “tuba” (sugar cane wine) or “tapey” ( rice wine) are observed to have long lives. This can be explained by the sources of the “wine” – natural food, which have been fermented naturally. Wheat and sugar cane have lots of fiber and antioxidants which can increase HDL (good cholesterol), which is not true with commercially prepared alcoholic beverages.
If, however; after following these preventive measures and you still experience the following:
1. Chest discomfort
2. Discomfort or numbness in the arms, neck, jaw , back or stomach
3. Shortness of breath
6. Cold sweat
You are having a heart attack. Rush to the nearest hospital. It will save your life.
If , on the other hand, you feel one or more of the following:
1. Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
2. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
3. Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
4. Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
5. Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Then it is a stroke. Do not wait for other symptoms to become apparent . Consult your doctor immediately. One heart is all you’ve got!
Calbreath, Donald F: Fundamentals of Clinical Chemistry