Are you one of those people who steers clear of the doctors at all costs?
Many people think if they’re feeling great, why should they bother? But just because you have no symptoms doesn’t mean everything is fine, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.
With today being World Heart Day what better time to bring attention to heart health.
Act now while you are healthy
GemLife Maroochy Quays over-50s resort resident Ken Matthews knows about the importance of regular check-ups better than most.
Ken was fit and active and had just enjoyed a week’s holiday on Norfolk Island where he, his wife and friends had walked some 40kms, including 8.5km in one day, without incident.
Prior to leaving on the trip Ken thought at almost 75, he should get a check-up. This was, despite the fact, that he was feeling great and had no pain nor any symptoms or signs of any problem.
Calcium Score Test (CST)
The check-up revealed some abnormalities and Ken’s doctor immediately advised him that he would need an x-ray, ultrasound, and a Calcium Score Test (CST) of his heart. If the latter revealed a score over 100, he would need to see a cardiologist.
A coronary CT calcium scan is a computed tomography scan of the heart which provides an assessment of the possible severity of coronary artery disease. Specifically, it looks for calcium deposits in the coronary arteries that can narrow arteries and increase the risk of heart attack.
Ken was shocked when his CST came back at an unbelievable 5000, especially considering he had not had any symptoms whatsoever and was feeling fighting fit.
Further cardiologist tests followed, and Ken failed a ‘stress test’ which showed irregularities in his heart. He also failed an angiogram which revealed three arteries were 100 per cent blocked, including the LAD artery, known as the `widow maker’.
“But I feel absolutely fine,” said Ken in disbelief.
Ken was put straight into hospital for urgent bypass surgery, having three bypasses and a new bovine valve installed, and all despite not having any pain, symptoms or warnings that anything was wrong.
The cardiologist told Ken that if the cardiovascular disease (CVD) had not been detected and he had not had the surgery, he could have been in for a spectacular exit from a major heart attack.
This was a man who was fit, healthy and loving life! Ken hopes his story might help others.
Early detection the key for CVD
CVD is the world’s number one killer, causing over 18.6 million deaths per year, of which 85 per cent are due to heart attacks and strokes. It’s a disease that affects the heart or blood vessels (veins and arteries) and early detection can be important to the overall outcome.
It is interesting to note that the heart is the strongest muscle in the body and begins beating about three weeks after each of us are conceived. By the age of 70, it would have beaten an estimated 2.5 billion times. Its health can be compromised by habitual risk factors such as stress, an unhealthy diet, or smoking.
Weakening of the heart can also occur due to a pre-existing heart condition and other physiological factors, including high blood cholesterol and hypertension.
Risk factors that can contribute to CVD include smoking, physical inactivity, diabetes, and cholesterol.
Cholesterol builds up in the arteries and is sometimes referred to as cholesterol plaque. It is important to try and keep this down by exercising daily, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking.
High levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol – often referred to as `bad’ cholesterol – in the blood have been linked to coronary heart disease. Food high in saturated fats tend to boost LDL cholesterol.
Health authorities recommend that cholesterol levels should be no higher than 5.5mmol per litre where there are no other risk factors present. If there are other CVD risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking or pre-existing cardiovascular (heart) disease, then the LDL levels should be less than 2mmol/l.
Too much fat and sugar in the diet can also clog arteries over time.
There are many heart health benefits associated with moderate physical activity such as housework, gardening, dancing, and walking.
When we move, our heart moves with us and helps to reduce cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and ultimately the risk of stroke and heart disease. It also helps to manage a good weight balance and reduce the risk of obesity.
Of course, there are also the benefits to our well-being such as improving sleep, increasing energy, boosting our mood, reducing stress levels, and building overall balance and confidence.
The important thing to remember is that we are not infallible and a check-up at the doctors is a simple way to not only keep your health on track, but also to ensure nothing health-related has changed. Don’t wait until it is too late – take charge of your heart health.
For more information about heart health, Australia’s Heart Foundation has a lot of excellent resources. Visit https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/