If you’re like most people, you’ve probably been told by your general practitioner that you should start getting regular heart screenings after the age of 40 (earlier if you have a family history of heart disease). Well, the expert Palm Beach cardiologists at SPCVA are not going to tell you differently – you really should be getting regular heart screenings, at least every couple of years.
But if you’re like most people, you’ve probably also always assumed that the reason we doctors recommend you get these screenings on a regular basis is that we rely on the screenings to detect or diagnose heart disease. That’s not completely true. Sure, because many people aren’t regular with their heart checkups we sometimes detect signs of existing heart disease. But that’s because by not having regular screenings, these patients have in effect allowed the heart disease to develop.
The real reason we strongly recommend regular heart screenings is to prevent heart disease, not detect it.
If you’re like most people, you probably think that the “important part” of your heart screenings is the medical testing that takes place – measuring your weight, taking blood samples to determine your blood cholesterol levels, and taking blood pressure readings to make sure you haven’t developed hypertension. And these things are important.
But just as important are the questions we ask you “between tests.” They’re not just chat. When we ask you questions about your habits and lifestyle, we’re not just doing it out of curiosity or friendship (although we do consider all of our patients friends). We’re looking for some very specific risk factors that raise a red flag and indicate to us that you are possibly at increased risk of developing heart disease in the near future or later in life.
What kind of risk factors are Delray Beach cardiologists looking for?
Some are determined as the result of your medical tests – if you have high blood pressure or overly high cholesterol levels, those are two of the biggest risk factors that lead to heart disease. But other risk factors that can be almost as important involve the lifestyle choices you make and behaviors you exhibit in your daily life.
For example, are you overweight or obese? If so, your heart risk goes up. Do you smoke cigarettes? If the answer is “Yes,” your heart risk goes WAY up. Do you get regular aerobic exercise or are you more lethargic and inactive? If the latter, that’s another factor that greatly increases your likelihood of developing heart disease. The presence of other diseases such as diabetes increases your heart risk, as does eating a diet high in fats and sugar.
Screenings identify risk factors that you should reduce to avoid heart disease
Ideally, our job as cardiologists is not to detect heart disease and cure it. We much prefer to PREVENT it by convincing our patients to have regular screenings. In these screenings we can pinpoint risky behaviors that are increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke and help you to change or eliminate these behaviors to keep you healthy. As an example, if you currently smoke and we as your Palm Beach heart doctors are able to help you quit, we’ll have helped you cut your heart attack risk in half within a year. If you’re overweight and eat too much junk food, we can work with you to create diet plans that not only lower your cholesterol levels but help you shed those extra pounds that are putting extra strain on your heart.
Finding heart disease once it’s developed is too late – prevention is smarter
We hope this article helps you to understand why your friends at South Palm Cardiovascular Associates may seem like nags when we urge you not to skip your regular heart screenings. We’re reminding you not to skip them because they’re really an important part of keeping you healthy. If it’s been a while since your last visit to your Palm Beach cardiologist, pick up the phone and give us a call at 561-55-0080. Even if we find nothing wrong, your time won’t have been wasted. And if we find a number of risk factors that you can easily lower, your time will have been invested well.