Your Heart Health Calculator
So I've just finished studying for my pharmacology prescribing rights exam, under the tutelage of Dr. James McCormack and Dr. Adil Virani, a family physician and a pharmacist from B.C. who, apart from being experts in their field, are exceptional critical thinkers and promote evaluating the evidence available for treatments - REGULARLY. Something us physicians are bad at keeping on top of.
I also learnt how to understand what are the chances of you, my patients, having a stroke or heart attack, given a single or group of symptoms. I am sharing this heart-health calculator with you, to help put you at ease when you see one lab value come back as elevated, OR, to show you now is the time to take action to help prevent such negative events.
Why is Prevention Key? Atherosclerosis (or hardening of the arteries) can start at a very young age and often we experience no obvious symptoms until they are more than 60% blocked, if at all.
Classical Risk Factors? The most well known risk factors are entirely preventable by lifestyle: smoking, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and elevated cholesterol.
Emerging Risk Factors? But we all know that even thin people with normal cholesterol get heart attacks. If you have a strong family history or just want to be proactive there are some important new markers of risk that you can be screened for: fibrinogen, Lp(a), homocysteine, fasting insulin and CRP. High fibrinogen levels indicate your blood is more likely to clot. High homocysteine levels are associated with a widespread aggressive form of arteriosclerosis. Elevated Insulin is much more common than we know since it is usually only tested for if someone is diabetic, and yet it can be elevated years before the onset of diabetes. C - reactive protein, a marker for inflammation, is a strong predictor of cardiovascular events in some studies. CRP is especially interesting as inflammation is emerging as a trend underlying all chronic disease. Inflammation can be caused by fat tissue, by chronic low grade infections (such as non-symptomatic old root canals and/or H-Pylori bacteria in the stomach), autoimmune conditions and more.
Under-Emphasized Risk Factors? Growing evidence points to other diseases that are associated with an increased risk for heart disease: gout, polycystic ovarian syndrome, sleep apnea, autoimmune diseases and vitamin D deficiency. In my clinical experience, vitamin D deficiency is epidemic and everyone should be tested.
Just emerging is evidence that testosterone may have anti-inflammatory effects which may point to a link between aging, reduced testosterone levels (especially in men) and inflammation which is underlying all disease including atherosclerosis. As we explore we may find heavy metal toxins such as lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium have a significant role to play.
Thankfully, when it comes to your cardiovascular lab values, Dr. McCormack and Dr. Virani have developed a Heart-Health Calculator. Check it out to give yourself an idea of your overall risk for a negative heart event. Learn what happens when your cholesterol level goes up or your good cholesterol level (HDL) goes up!
Check it out here: cvdcalculator.com
Book in to see me for a consult if you have questions about your heart health.
What help with your cholesterol specifically? Check out my article on understanding what your cholesterol means for your heart.