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Heart Health: Blood Tests and Avoiding Heart Disease (June 27, 2011)

Blood Testing for Heart Disease

A number of blood tests may be performed to indicate your risk for heart disease. A cholesterol blood test will be one of the most important. High cholesterol is an indicator of atherosclerosis, a leading cause of heart disease. Cholesterol levels are determined by looking at two numbers: your LDL cholesterol and your HDL cholesterol. LDL, or low-density lipoproteins, is the "bad" cholesterol and HDL, or high-density lipoproteins, are the good kind. Ideally, LDL numbers should be low and HDL numbers should be high. When LDLs are high and HDLs are low, your risk for heart disease increases.

Testing for triglycerides is also important. A high level of triglycerides indicates the possibility of metabolic syndrome. People with metabolic syndrome have a combination of symptoms, including high triglycerides and blood pressure, excess abdominal fat and an increase in insulin levels. This condition comes with an increased risk of heart disease.

Heart Disease Statistics

  • 785,000 Americans will suffer their first heart attack this year.
  • 470,000 more will suffer their second or third heart attack.
  • Over $316 billion will be lost this year because of heart disease, including health care costs, medications and loss of productivity.
  • Only 27 percent of people are aware of all the symptoms associated with a heart attack.
  • Around 47 percent of sudden cardiac deaths will occur outside a hospital.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease

  • Family history of heart problems
  • High LDL cholesterol (and low HDL)
  • High blood pressure
  • High levels of Homocysteine
  • Having diabetes
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking

Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease

Even if you have genetic or other risk factors for heart disease, you can fight back. You can reduce your risk of getting heart disease or having a heart attack by:
  • Losing excess weight or maintaining a healthy weight
  • Quitting smoking or not starting in the first place
  • Asking your doctor about starting a daily low-dose aspirin regimen
  • Reducing the amount of sodium in your diet
  • Eating a diet that is low in saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol
  • Exercising regularly, especially performing cardiovascular exercise like walking or swimming
  • Keeping a close eye on blood sugar levels if you are diabetic
Taking care of your heart is one of the most important things that you can do for yourself. Respect your heart and you may live a long and happy life.