According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, too few Americans are getting adequate preventative health services. In fact, tens of millions of people are not getting the preventative services they should. Are you one of them?
Here’s a sample of what they looked at:
- Aspirin use in people with known heart disease
- Blood pressure control
- Screening for high cholesterol
- Tobacco cessation
What they found is shocking, yet frankly not at all surprising. The findings mirror some of our own research in patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD). Below are some highlights related to heart disease.
1. Should you be taking aspirin? – If you have established heart disease (i.e., you’ve had a heart attack, stent, bypass surgery, etc.), you should be on aspirin. Less than 1/2 of patients are. (Note: use of aspirin for ‘primary prevention,’ i.e., for people without known heart disease, is less clear… Talk to your doctor about whether aspirin is appropriate for you.)
2. Is your blood pressure under control? – Have you ever had it checked? For most people, normal blood pressure should be lower than 140/90 mm Hg. (Remember, both the top and bottom numbers are important risk factors for heart disease and stroke). Unfortunately, less than 1/2 of people with high blood pressure had their blood pressure under control. And this is more likely to be the case if you are poor, uninsured, or have poor access to regular health care.
3. What’s your cholesterol? – You should have your levels checked at least every 5 years, more frequently if your levels are high or you are on treatment. One in three adults haven’t done this. Do you know what your numbers are?
There are 4 types of cholesterol we usually measure.
- Total cholesterol – normal is less than 200 mg/dL
- LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol – normal depends on what other problems you have (< 160 mg/dL if you are otherwise healthy; < 130 with other risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure; < 100 if you have known heart disease)
- HDL (‘good’) cholesterol – normal is greater than 40 mg/dL
- Triglycerides (another bad cholesterol) – normal is less than 150 mg/dL
What does this mean for you (and your family members)?
Maybe you’re thinking, ‘I’m young. I’m healthy. I don’t need to worry about this stuff.’ But remember, heart disease is the number one killer of adults in the US. Number 1. More people die from heart disease than from the next three most common causes of death combined. And that includes all forms of cancer. Think about it.
It is never too early to think about preventing heart disease. And it’s never too early to encourage your mom, dad, brothers, sisters, and friends to do the same. Here’s what you can do now:
1. Get your blood pressure checked and if needed, get treated.
2. Find out your cholesterol levels and if needed, get treated.
3. Quit smoking.
4. Get moving.
5. Eat right and maintain a healthy weight.
6. Encourage your friends and family members to do the same.
If you aren’t sure what you need to be doing at your age (not all recommendations are the same for all age groups…), be sure to ask your doctor.
By doing these preventative measures, we could save more than 100,000 lives each year. I say we just start with saving yours first.