February is American Heart Month

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February is ‘American Heart Month’ — the perfect time to consider your heart health and the steps you can take to minimize heart disease risk.

One of the easiest and most important things you can do if you have high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure (two key heart disease risk factors) is to ASK FOR YOUR ‘NUMBERS.’

Information is power! If you have your blood pressure numbers AND your full lipid (cholesterol) panel results, you can easily calculate your own ’10-year risk of heart disease!’

In the past 6 months, two of my close friends were diagnosed with high cholesterol and their doctors started discussing statins.

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Newly Diagnosed with High Cholesterol?

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Health issues due to the pandemic affected nearly everyone in 2020. Lockdowns and working from home wreaked havoc with exercise routines. For many, stress eating and drinking replaced healthy habits. The result: millions of Americans know they gained weight last year. But many may not realize that weight gain alongside months of anxiety and stress might also have elevated blood pressure. And that is alarming as weight gain, alcohol consumption, and elevated blood pressure all increase risk of heart disease… sometimes significantly.

So if you’ve had—or are about to have—an overdue physical, don’t be surprised if your doctor newly diagnoses you with high cholesterol (or high blood pressure or diabetes.)  If that happens,

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If you MIGHT need a statin, consider a CAC scan

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Did you know that there’s a non-invasive test that can help you and your doctor decide if you truly need a statin medication to lower cholesterol?

It’s called a Coronary Artery Calcium (CAC) Scan. While this test is not right for everyone, if your personal risk of heart disease is uncertain it can help guide your medication decision.

That’s what happened with me, which I wrote about in my 2017 post, Coronary Calcium Scan Illuminates Heart Disease Risk. Since then, the CAC scan is being more widely used and it’s something everyone who falls into the ‘unclear’

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What’s Your Heart Disease Risk?

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. According to the American Heart Association, “Cardiovascular disease, listed as the underlying cause of death, accounts for nearly 836,546 deaths in the US. That’s about 1 of every 3 deaths in the US.”

1 in 3.

What’s your risk? If you know your cholesterol levels and blood pressure you can calculate YOUR risk of heart disease (and take steps to lower it). It’s easy with this online calculator:

  • Online AHA 10-Year Heart Disease Risk Calculator: Web version *

Once you input your information,

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Cholesterol Results Through 2018

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In June, when I spoke about The Low Cholesterol Cookbook and Action Plan at the Westport Library Cookbook Club, an audience member asked if I post my cholesterol test results. While individual test results are only relevant to that individual, I get this question often enough that it seemed a good time to update with my latest lab scores.

Because I’m a data nerd (and like to discuss cholesterol trends with my doctors…and a visual makes a recap easy!) I’ve graphed them over time.

 

These latest results were heartening (sorry, pun intended) and indicate the lo-co change I made in mid-February is working.

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