Health & Wellness

Boomer Edition | 10th Annual | 2014

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Page 45 of 147

FOR THE LOVE OF YOUR HEART by Debra Melani Doctors Share Meanings Behind Their Cardiovascular Health Messages Heart disease holds the top spot for killing the most people in this country, and its grip remains rock solid. Every minute, it takes an American life, and it accounts for more than a quarter of Colorado's deaths each year. Below, with the help of Dr. Eugene Sherman, a cardiologist with The Medical Center of Aurora, and Dr. Bryan Kramer, a vascular surgeon with Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center, we offer a snapshot of why doctors are so adamant in their screening and heart-healthy messages. Screenings: Know Your Genes and Your Numbers Family History Genetics can play a strong role in developing heart disease, and you can't give Mom and Pop back their genes. But having that family history can provide powerful incentive for a heart-healthy lifestyle. "I tell my patients all of the time: If you've been dealt the wrong cards, it's your wake-up call to take care of yourself," Sherman says. A high genetic risk is defined as having a first-degree relative (parents, full siblings, offspring) who had a heart attack before age 50 for men and before age 55 for women. Cholesterol Having high levels of these lipids, or fatty substances, coursing through your veins is a little like grease and gunk invading your house's 44 plumbing. Eventually, something's going to stop. People with total high cholesterol have double the risk of heart disease (Centers for Disease Control). "Cholesterol alters the lining of the blood vessels and causes plaque to form," Sherman says. If you have other risk factors, your doctor might want your number to be lower, but in general, baby boomers should be tested annually and have a total number below 200 mg/dL. Blood Pressure That nurse with the tight-squeezing cuff performs a bigger role than it might seem. Of all first heartattack victims, 69 percent have high blood pressure, and the number is 77 percent for first-time stroke victims (CDC). High blood pressure negatively alters the lining of the vessels. It commonly rises with age, and it is often called a silent killer. "You are not going to feel bad if your blood pressure is 145 over 95, but your risk will be many times higher," Sherman says. In general, normal is considered 120/80 or lower, and baby boomers should be tested annually. Hemoglobin A1C With the know-your-numbers' rule, Hemoglobin A1C is the new kid on the block. Used to measure blood-sugar levels, the test has become the golden standard for diabetes screening. But doctors are increasingly learning about a link between high A1C numbers and heart disease. For now, the screening is routine for diabetics only, and their number to beat is generally 7, but all cases vary. For a non-diabetic, a preferred reading would be below 5.7.

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