independent

Monday 22 September 2014

Preventing cardiovascular disease

Dr Michelle Cooper

Published 23/08/2014 | 00:00

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CARDIOVASCULAR disease is caused by atheroma formation. Patches of atheroma are small fatty lumps that develop within the lining of arteries, making the artery narrower, thus reducing blood flow. Over time, an atheroma can become larger and may cause a crack to develop within the wall of the blood vessel. This causes a blood clot to form and this may then completely block the flow of blood to the heart which can cause a heart attack, stroke or other serious problem.

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LIFESTYLE RISK FACTORS

Lifestyle risk factors that can be prevented or changed in order to reduce ones risk of cardiovascular disease are as follows:

* Smoking: Lifetime smoking roughly doubles your risk of heart disease.

* Lack of physical activity: 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five days per week is recommended.

* Obesity: In patients who are overweight, a 10% weight reduction can reduce your chance of dying at any given age by about 20%.

* Waist circumference: An increased health risk of obesity is most marked when excess fat is mainly around the abdomen. Waist measurements of 102cm or above in men and 88cm or above in women pose significant health risks.

* An unhealthy diet: A daily intake of at least five portions of fruit and veg is recommended. Fatty food consumption including fatty meats, cheeses, full cream milk and fried foods should be limited.

* High salt intake: No more than 6g of salt a day should be consumed. Sodium content is usually listed on food labels an multiplying the sodium content by 2.5 will give the salt content.

* Excess alcohol: Men should drink no more than 21 units per week and no more than four units in any one day. Women should limit their intake to no more than 14 units per week and no more than three units in any one day.

Treatable or partly treatable risk factors include:

* High blood pressure.

* High cholesterol.

* Diabetes.

* Kidney disease.

Fixed risk factors that cannot be altered include:

* A strong family history of cardiovascular disease in a first degree male relative (brother or father) under the age of 55 years, or in a female first degree relative (mother or sister) under the age of 65 years.

* Male gender.

* Early menopause in women.

* Age.

* Ethnicity: Populations at increased risk of cardiovascular disease include Indian and Pakistani groups as well as those from Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.

It is important to note that risk factors interact. As a result, tf you have two or more of the above, your likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease is increased.

ASSESSMENT

A 'risk factor calculator' is commonly used by General Practitioners. This assesses your cardiovascular health risk, taking into account your age, sex, smoking status, blood pressure and cholesterol level. This score gives a fairly accurate indication of the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease over the next ten years.

WHO SHOULD BE ASSESSED?

* All adults aged 40 years or over.

* Adults of any age who have a strong family history of cardiovascular disease.

Gorey Guardian

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