A person with at least three of these risk factors is considered high risk. In addition, Dr. Ramirez highlights that any person with diabetes should be considered high risk as well.
The European Society of Cardiology developed HeartScore (Heart Systematic Coronary Risk Evaluation), an interactive tool available online for predicting the risk of heart attack in patients. It assigns a score from zero to 47, based on the patient’s gender, age, smoking status and blood cholesterol levels, to reflect the probability of having a heart attack in the next 10 years. In general, men, old age, smokers, and high cholesterol are associated with a higher risk.
Knowing your risk enables you to lower it by eliminating factors that you can modify. While you cannot change your gender, age, family history and genetics, you can control your blood pressure, smoking status and weight. Even low risk patients “should avoid cigarette smoking, [they should] exercise, and maintain a healthy blood pressure and BMI,” advises Dr. Ramirez. “A [lifelong] low-salt, low-fat, low-cholesterol diet that is rich in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids … is essential in lowering your heart risk.”
When it comes to the heart, no chances should be taken. For those with high risk, Dr. Ramirez says the first step is to visit your doctor, who can advise you on the right tests to undergo. The most straightforward test is a blood test called a lipid profile, which measures the levels of fat in your blood. (See our related article on triglycerides and the lipid profile, page __.)
Depending on the findings from your history and physical examination, your doctor may also recommend other tests. These may include a 12-lead electrocardiogram, a chest x-ray, an echocardiogram, a treadmill exercise test, or heart imaging tests.
Your doctor may also prescribe medications, if needed, to help you lower your cholesterol, blood pressure and weight. Most of these medications require the supervision of a physician.
To know more about what you can do to lower your heart attack risk, get a copy of the February issue of HealthToday magazine, out now in major newsstands and bookstores.