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Amit Khera, M.D. Answers Questions On Heart Disease

Amit Khera, M.D. Answers Questions On: Heart Disease

Why should young or even middle-age people be concerned with heart disease? Isn’t it primarily an “old person’s” disease?

It’s true that age is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease. But we know from years of study that heart disease develops over decades, with early buildup seen in about half of people in their 20s. If one can get to middle age without any risk factors, then their risk of having a heart attack or dying from one is less than 5 percent. That’s a powerful incentive to pay attention to your health.

What can a person do to help prevent heart disease?

First, know your numbers. Everyone should have simple tests, including blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and body mass index. And you need to know your numbers – not just that they’re okay. Just as important, you should strive to keep your numbers at ideal levels, rather than merely at levels that help you avoid disease. For instance, instead of keeping your blood pressure at 140/90, aim for a level less than 120/80, which is ideal. And second, get started on healthy habits early – even in your 20s. Small changes can have a big payoff. For those at higher risk, like those with a strong family of heart disease, it’s even more important to get evaluated early.

What are the risk factors that indicate your health may be in danger?

Using risk factors to predict heart disease isn’t perfect, but they’re a pretty good indicator of who may have problems down the road. Any one risk factor is not the crystal ball, but taken together, they can correctly predict which patients will have heart disease about 75 to 80 percent of the time. Those risk factors include: high cholesterol (over 200); high blood pressure (more than 140/80); a history of smoking; diabetes; and a family history of heart disease.