Do you know your risk factors?
heart attack and stroke risk factors:
Dr. Robert Superko, author of the book Before the Heart Attacks, loves asking doctors the question: "Why do we stop, when we diagnose coronary artery disease? We should be asking 'What are the diseases behind the artery disease?'"
A risk factor is anything that increases your risk of having an event. (By "events" we mean heart attacks, strokes and sudden death.) Risk factors are the source of your risk.
There are two types of risk factors: active and passive.
Active risk factors make the artery disease worse. These are forces that actively contribute to the disease process by accelerating atherosclerosis. Others are passive markers for arterial inflammation but do not actually accelerate it.
These active risk factors are disease accelerators:
High Blood Pressure
Although these risk factors are associated with increased risk, they do not accelerate artery disease. These are important passive markers for arterial inflammation:
Cardio-CRP, a marker for inflammation
Calcium in any artery seen on CT or MRI or X-rays or mammogram (like carotid artery calcium seen on dental X-rays, for example).
This is only a partial list. There are over 200 different risk factors for heart attacks, strokes and sudden death.
Can stress cause heart disease? Stress causes release of adrenaline, which may contribute to conditions that make an unstable vulnerable plaque rupture (1). We believe stress also has a potent indirect effect on heart disease, manifested by stress-eating and by postponing physical activity and medical care.
Have you been tested to determine the actual level of risk you carry?
knowing your risk factors is not enough
Risk calculators are based on the idea that we can use your risk factors to calculate your 10 year risk. Knowing your risk factors is important. But risk factors can never answer the question, "Do I have artery disease?" Artery tests can!
1. E. Falk, PK Shah, V Fuster, Coronary Plaque Disruption. Circulation 1995;92:657