Stay out of cardiac trouble

DR STEVEN Kypraios talks prevention of heart disease: A couple of weeks ago, a patient contacted my rooms to make an appointment with me. When informed that I was not consulting on the day he was requesting, he went on to comment, and I am sure that this was meant in the nicest way, that I would probably be out playing golf.

Being an interventional cardiologist trained to unblock blocked coronary arteries and stop acute heart attacks from killing my patients, the day in question was spent in the cardiac catheter lab.

The phone call did start me thinking about an important issue in heart health. Like many professionals my age, I have a busy life. And like many people, thinking about my health is perhaps not the top priority.

It is important to remember that prevention of heart disease starts when you are young, and is always worth starting at any age. And the rewards can be huge, the prevention of a cardiac event like a heart attack will save you money and may save your life.

So how does one stay out of cardiac trouble? Your risk of developing coronary heart disease depends heavily on your genes.

Your genetic makeup has a strong influence on your chance of getting hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and even some arrhythmias. Genetic therapies remain a future goal of researchers for now. Cardiologists talk about the so-called non-modifiable risk factors: age, sex and family history of heart disease. However, there are a number of risk factors for getting coronary artery disease, which we can modify, and which have a big influence on your risk, and these are smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, lack of exercise, psychological stress, and depression.

Your GP is the first port of call to assess your coronary risk, and initiate further testing to guide your risk reduction strategy.

Any patient I come into contact with is routinely assessed for their coronary and vascular risk.

Your GP will normally initiate a referral for specialist advice if you need cardiac imaging (echocardiography), 24 hour blood pressure monitoring for fine assessment of your blood pressure, specialist advice on the treatment of high blood pressure, stress echocardiography testing to screen for coronary artery disease, or advice about the treatment of an elevated cholesterol level.

Finally, psychological stress and depression are not good for your heart and are thought to increase your disease risk. Talk to your GP if you think you are depressed and seek help. Look at your lifestyle and ask what you can do to ease your stress and increase your physical activity levels. Every little bit of exercise counts. Including, dare I say it, a relaxing game of golf.