Know Your Numbers, Do the Calculations, Talk to Your Doctor

Red heart in woman and man hands, on green background

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) announced cardiovascular disease (which includes coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral arterial disease) prevention guidelines recently. There are differences from previous guidelines, focusing on using statin drugs like Lipitor (usually prescribed to those with high cholesterol) for all people with a greater than 7.5% 10-year risk of stroke or heart disease, among others. So what does this mean? A lot more statin prescriptions since many people in the U.S, over age 40, certainly over age 50, fit this category. So, why the change? And what does it mean for you?

Why the change? The ACC/AHA advisory panel felt the prior guidelines, shooting for levels of 130, 100 and 70 or below on LDL cholesterol (depending on risk factors) did not go far enough in taking other risk factors into account.

What does this mean for you?

Know Your Numbers and Evaluate:
The calculators doctors use to assess risk can vary, and different ones are sometimes used for men (Framingham) and women (Reynolds). You can find free versions of both online. To use the calculators you will need information that includes: your age, smoking history, family history, your blood pressure, LDL and HDL cholesterol numbers, BMI, and your high sensitivity C-reactive protein number (a measure of inflammation).The information needed varies depending on whether you are using the Framingham or the Reynolds test. If you don’t know these numbers, see your doctor, who can help you calculate your risk and keep them on file. Once you know your risk, you can make adjustments to optimize your health. That involves doing the basics:

Do The Basics:

  • Ensure your diet is a healthy one – free of red meat, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, syrups and non-100% whole grains.
  • Exercise! You should find cardiovascular and resistance activities that are enjoyable and optimal for you. If you are having fun doing them, you are more likely to stick with it.
  • Manage your stress levels to keep your blood pressure and overall health as optimal as possible. Work with your doctor to monitor your LDL and HDL cholesterol levels. Your LDL should be less than 100 and HDL greater than 50.
  • Avoid second hand smoke (it goes without saying you should avoid smoking altogether) and get your immunizations up to date.

If you’ve done all that and still have a 5% (or over)10-year risk of cardiovascular disease by calculator, talk to your doctor about what else you can do to lower your risk or about adding a statin, plus supplements that may help like CoQ10. But first get those cookies out of your house, and learn how to meditate.