Some people never lift their vehicles’ hoods until a light on the instrument panel flashes or a strange noise develops.
If you are fond of sudden, expensive repairs, this approach may work. Unfortunately, millions of people view their own health the same way.
The obituary column in your newspaper will reveal it’s not unusual for people to die before retirement age. Frequently the cause of death is a heart attack or stroke.
Dr. Rita Redberg, a professor of medicine in the cardiology division of the University of California, San Francisco, said risk factors for heart disease are increasing.
“Two out of three Americans are overweight or obese and the overwhelming majority get little regular physical activity.”
The overweight epidemic is resulting in a spike in adult onset diabetes, another heart disease risk factor.
When someone suffers a heart attack, friends and family often point to stress as a cause, but Redberg said it’s actually people’s response to stress that increases their heart attack risk. For example, stress leads to negative health behaviors, such as overeating, alcohol or drug abuse and heavy smoking.
About 50 million Americans have high blood pressure (140/90 or higher) and an estimated 60 million others have elevated levels of bad cholesterol. If you can’t remember the last time you had a physical examination, you may have these risk factors for heart disease or stroke without knowing it.
If there’s a history of coronary artery disease in your family, you can’t wriggle out of those genes. But Redberg says several other risk factors can be reduced or eliminated.
If you haven’t checked under your own “hood” lately, book a complete physical. If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, treating those conditions will dramatically reduce your heart attack risk.
Other heart health tips include:
• Exercising for at least half an hour most days of the week.
• Losing weight and eating a healthy, balanced diet.
• Quitting smoking.
• Limiting alcohol consumption.
Out of sight, out of mind doesn’t mean out of danger. See your doctor.