Written by the students of the Sports Medicine and Fitness Technology Program, KU Fort Lauderdale
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the nation’s leading killer of both men and women, regardless of race or ethnic class. Almost one million Americans die of CVD each year, or 42% of all deaths nationwide. Heart disease does not just kill the elderly, it is the leading cause of death among Americans aged 35 and older. The death toll is very bleak indeed, but it is only part of the picture. People who are living with the complications of CVD comprise one in four Americans, or 57 million of us. Stroke (another form of CVD affecting the vascular network in the brain) and heart disease account for six million hospitalizations annually, eventually causing disability in 10 million people over the age of 65.
Specific factors have been identified to contribute to the risk of CVD including those listed below. Although it appears there are no set ways to protect yourself, this couldn’t be further from the truth. We have learned that many risk factors are directly related to lifestyle choices. It is often up to you.
The American College of Sports Medicine has compiled this risk stratification.
· 1 identified risk is a low risk for CVD
· 2 identified risks are a moderate risk for CVD
· 3 or more identified risks are a high risk for developing CVD
AGE: Men 45 years or older; Women 55 years or older.
FAMILY HISTORY: For first degree relatives (blood parents, blood siblings, and blood offspring)-have they suffered a heart attack, had cardiac revascularization (stent, angioplasty, bypass, etc.), or died from sudden death syndrome? Female first degree relatives that have experienced any of these and are under 65 years, you are at risk. Male first degree relatives that are/were under 55 years, you are at risk.
SMOKING HISTORY: Current smoker or have quit less than 6 months ago, OR you regularly consume second hand smoke. Some studies are leaning toward a risk for those using oral tobacco products as well (dip, chew, etc.).
SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE: If you are not participating in some type of moderately intense physical activity for at least three times per week for an hour each session, you are at risk. You must have been physical for at least three continuous months to be considered active.
OBESITY: If your Body Mass Index is over 30, you are at risk. This is the relationship between your height and your weight. Are you carrying too much weight specific to your height?
BMI = [body weight in pounds/height in inches, squared] x 703
HYPERTENSION: Are you on antihypertensive medication? Is your systolic (top) number above 140 mmHg OR your diastolic (lower) number above 90 mmHg on two separate resting occasions? If so, you are at risk.
BLOOD LIPIDS (Fat): Does your total cholesterol account for more than 200 mg/dl? Is your LDL cholesterol over 130 mg/dl? Is your HDL cholesterol below 40 mg/dl? If yes, you are at risk.
BLOOD GLUCOSE: Is your fasting blood glucose reading below 100 mg/dl or above 125 mg/dl?
One might be at risk for Diabetes, and a direct risk for CVD.
An interesting ‘NEGATIVE RISK FACTOR’ is your level of HDL cholesterol. Is it above 60 mg/dl? HDL cholesterol prevents plaque in the arteries from ‘sticking’ so you want as much as possible. If above 60 mg/dl, then you can remove one risk factor from above! Yes, it is THAT good!
Another footnote is that once you have identified a risk in one category, do not continue to accrue more risks in that category. Each category accounts for only one possible risk.
We know that taking care of ourselves helps prevent cardiovascular disease. Although there are risk factors we cannot control such as family history and age, we can lower our risks with behavior modification. We must take ultimate responsibility for our own health, realizing that our efforts significantly affect and impact our quality of life and mortality.
STUDENTS: Please email your submissions/questions/comments to the ELSE Student Editor, Kayla Bianchi at: firstname.lastname@example.org