How's Your Heart?
It’s easy to ask about the health of your heart, but a little more complicated to answer. Heart issues have multiple causes and some of those causes can also lead to other problems. For example, while atherosclerotic arteries are directly linked to heart attacks and strokes, diseases of blood vessels also have a direct impact on type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, dementia, erectile dysfunction, the ability to walk without pain, digestive problems, and many other disorders.
Assessing Heart Health
Whether you have any symptoms of possible heart disease (chest pain, shortness of breath, excessive fatigue, reduced exercise tolerance) or not, it’s a good idea to get a baseline and see where your heart health is now. Even if you have no symptoms, a carotid artery evaluation can be helpful to reassure yourself – relieving unhealthy stress! – and to obtain a baseline for future comparison.
Here at Revitalize Anti Aging Centers, we take a multi-pronged approach that begins with testing. In addition to an electrocardiogram (EKG), we look at various lipid (fat) markers in the blood, the thickness of the wall of the carotid artery (the large artery in the neck), and the degree of blockage present in the coronary arteries through coronary calcium scanning. If further investigation is required, cardiac stress testing and echocardiography, in addition to other kinds of testing, are also available.
What We Learn from Tests
- EKGs tell us about the rate, rhythm, and, to some degree, the perfusion (passage of blood) through the heart itself.
- Blood testing tells us many things. To begin with, lipid markers will give us an idea of the levels of the different kinds of cholesterol present in the blood; both good and bad. These consist of:
- Total cholesterol
- “Good” HDL (high-density lipoprotein)
- LDL (low-density lipoprotein)
- VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein)
- TG (triglycerides)
If need be, these blood lipids can be further fractionated (chemically broken down) into subcategories.
In addition, blood testing for vitamin deficiencies, markers of diabetes and inflammation, as well as liver and kidney function tests, are important in assessing overall cardiovascular health.
- Carotid intima-media thickness testing (CIMT) uses ultrasound to measure the thickness of the wall of the carotid artery (the main artery in the neck) as well as blood flow. These measurements are strongly correlated with the risk of heart attack and stroke; the thicker the wall of the carotid artery, the more it is blocked with fatty atherosclerotic plaque that restricts blood flow. The same mechanism applies to the arteries in heart muscle, so doctors can assess the risk of stroke as well as heart attack in the future.
- Coronary CT calcium scanning is another weapon in our health arsenal. This is a fast CT (computerized tomography) scan that shows how much calcium is present in the lining of the arteries of the heart and leads to a coronary artery calcium score (CAC). Greater calcification in the coronary arteries means more blockage of blood flow. High CAC means there is a higher risk of heart attack and cardiac mortality.
What We Do with Testing Information
Knowledge is power and the data we gather from testing is very powerful. Once we assess heart health risks based on the above testing, we can design a program to lessen these risks. The preventive steps often prescribed following testing include:
- Dietary Changes. It has been shown that a diet low in fat, specifically saturated fat, will decrease the amount of atherosclerotic plaque present in the heart and other arteries. Indeed, patients who have been previously diagnosed as “cardiac cripples” were shown to have substantially decreased the amount of plaque present in their heart and have improved their cardiac function significantly when they adjusted their eating habits.
- Creating a Safe Exercise Program. Exercise is highly effective for strengthening the heart and lungs. It has also been shown to create new arteries in the muscles of the legs, improve blood flow in the heart muscle itself, increase stamina, and aid respiratory function. Just as important, exercise promotes the release of endorphins which fosters a sense of overall well-being
- Meditation/Stress Relieving Techniques. Originally associated primarily with spiritual practice, meditation has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke as it is an extremely effective means of reducing stress. Stress-relieving practices designed specifically for a patient’s personal preferences can reduce the overall risk of heart attacks and strokes. In addition to decreasing stress, these can improve the quality of life by bringing a sense of calm and inner peace to the individual.
Ready for a Healthier Heart?
At Revitalize Anti Aging Centers, we are here to help you understand and improve your heart health. Get started today by calling us at the number on your screen or through our contact page. Based in Encino, we help patients from Sherman Oaks, Beverly Hills, and the entire Greater Los Angeles area. Let your journey to great heart health begin now!