Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in every four deaths can be attributed to CVD.
Unfortunately, many people in the early stages of the disease have no symptoms and are unaware they’re at risk until a cardiac event occurs. With preventative screenings like those offered by Life Line Screening, it’s possible to identify risk factors and use smart lifestyle changes to reduce the chances of disease progression.
A Real “Silent Killer”
Heart disease is so common in the U.S., it’s considered a normal part of growing older. It’s likely someone in your family has suffered from the disease, and others may be in the beginning stages but be asymptomatic. Problems can begin as early as childhood, especially in young people who are obese or have diabetes. Because CVD tends to progress without major symptoms over time, many people don’t focus on heart-healthy habits to prevent the inflammation and arterial plaque characteristic of the disease.
It’s even possible to have a heart attack without knowing it. Called “silent” heart attacks, these events cut off oxygen to part of the heart just like a regular attack but lack obvious symptoms. You may experience mild discomfort in your back, chest, jaw or arms or feel as though you have a mild case of the flu. Although such an attack may not seem serious, it can still leave damaging scar tissue in the heart muscle.
Companies like Life Line Screening offer non-invasive preventative tests to look for risk factors of CVD in men and women, including signs of:
- Aortic aneurysm
- Atrial fibrillation (AFib)
- Carotid artery disease
- High cholesterol
- Peripheral arterial disease
What is Vascular Screening?
Preventative vascular screening is conducted to find out if you have any major markers for or evidence of heart disease before symptoms become pronounced. By the time you begin having serious symptoms, the disease may be past the point at which non-surgical interventions are useful. Finding out more about your current health gives you and your doctor the information necessary to understand your risks for heart problems both now and in the future.
Vascular screening often includes blood tests to look at levels of both LDL and HDL cholesterol. The levels of each and the ratio between the two can be an indicator of CVD risk. Glucose levels are also checked to monitor for diabetes, a disease strongly associated with higher risks of heart problems. High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) assays measure the total level of inflammation in the body to determine if low-level chronic inflammation is present. This type of inflammation puts the immune system on constant “high alert” and has been implicated in the development of heart disease, especially arterial plaque.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends cholesterol testing every five years and glucose testing every three years for all adults over age 20. More frequent screenings are recommended for people who smoke, have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, are obese or diabetic or have a family history of heart disease.
Making Changes to Save Lives
According to a study published in the Journal of Community Medicine and Health Education, people who get vascular screening are more likely to make positive lifestyle changes aimed at improving heart health. This was true of the participants, who were mostly women over age 50, regardless of whether the scan revealed markers for heart disease.
Lifestyle changes are an integral part of preventative care for CVD. Whether or not your doctor recommends a screening, you can start taking steps to reduce your risk for heart attacks, strokes and other cardiac events:
- Adopt a plant-based diet free of processed foods, and minimize or eliminate all animal products. Studies show this type of dietary pattern can slow or even reverse the progression of heart disease.
- Start a regular exercise program, or modify your current regimen to include both strength and cardiovascular training. Lifting weights has a positive effect on blood flow and blood pressure, and it increases healthy muscle mass to combat obesity.
- Get regular checkups to monitor existing conditions and track the success of your lifestyle changes.
Once you start new health habits, it’s important to stick with them. A 2013 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) noted around 25 percent of men don’t make any changes following a cardiac event, but women are more likely to take steps such as quitting smoking, changing their eating habits and starting exercise programs. If accountability makes it easier for you to adhere to a heart health regimen, recruit your doctor, a nutrition specialist, a trainer and other supportive people to help you stay on track.
Learning More With Life Line Screening
Life Line Screening provides preventative vascular screening to the general public and to employees through corporate wellness programs. Life Line Screening offers three types of screening to check for common signs of heart disease:
- Finger-stick blood screening
- Limited electrocardiograph (EKG)
Getting these screenings can reveal blockages or obstructions in blood vessels or an irregularity in the electrical function of the heart indicating the possibility of AFib. Through the blood test, Life Line Screening checks cholesterol levels, blood glucose and levels of CRP. Because certain liver enzymes can be elevated due to heart failure, this assessment is also included in the test.
If you receive a Life Line Screening, you can take the results to your doctor and discuss the options for care. It’s often possible to address any minor problems without aggressive intervention. Getting vascular screening can reveal if you’re at risk for a heart attack or stroke and provide a starting point for you and your doctor to create a plan for better health. Making positive diet and lifestyle changes today improves overall well-being and could mean avoiding serious heart problems in the future.