“Risk” – The Right Kind of Four Letter Word
It’s starting to become a familiar phrase now, the information-age twist on what seems like an out-dated adage: “What you don’t know can hurt you!”
And for the most part we believe it.
But when it comes to our health–and our risks for disease–we often find ourselves saying, “Don’t tell me! I don’t want to know!”
Well, that’s hurting us.
Why? Because being aware of our health risks, and disease risk factors, could quite literally save our lives.
Today, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. There are a variety of risk factors associated with heart disease; the majority are something we can do something about. And now, it’s easier than ever to find out the information we need to know.
What are the Risk Factors for Heart Disease?
The risk factors for heart disease fall into two categories:
- Being overweight
- Being physically inactive
- Drinking alcohol use
- Eating a diet high in saturated fats and cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Age (over 65)
- Family history of heart disease
When we’re talking about “disease risk factors,” we mean a person’s behaviors and/or conditions that make them more likely to get a disease; risk factors can also play a part in making an existing disease worse. Research shows that having even one risk factor doubles our risk of developing heart disease. While there are some we can’t change–our age and family history, for instance–we do have some control over most of them.
How Do I Find Out Whether I’m at Risk?
It’s not hard to identify any behaviors that are the result of our own bad habits. Chances are they’re already on our list of things to change. (Think of this as another reason to talk to our healthcare providers and start moving toward a healthier lifestyle!)
But the incentive to modify risky behaviors carries even more weight when we combine behaviors with other risk factors, many of which we might not know about.
There are many ways to find out whether we’ve a condition that puts us at higher risk for heart disease; they’re all affordable and none require a visit to a doctor’s office.
- High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so it’s important to be aware of your blood pressure levels. If you don’t have access to a blood pressure cuff at home, visit your local drugstore or pharmacy. (In general, any level above 120/80 is something to look twice at.)
- High cholesterol can be determined by a simple blood test that includes a lipid panel with a LDL/HDL ratio (“bad cholesterol” and “good cholesterol”) like the one included in Personalabs low-cost Healthy Heart Profile. Like others, this test involves a quick visit to a laboratory; everything else can be done online.
- Diabetes or pre-diabetes can be determined by testing your blood sugar levels; a serum glucose test is included in Personalabs Healthy Heart Profile.
If you find out you’ve got one or more risk factors for heart disease, it’s time to visit your healthcare provider to talk about how to control them.
Want a More Complete Picture?
If you already know you’re at high risk for heart disease, have had a history of heart disease, or if there’s heart disease in your family, consider a more comprehensive test which will give you and your healthcare provider more advanced diagnostics.
Again, these tests can now be ordered online without a doctor’s order or involving your insurance company. Tests such as Personalabs Comprehensive Healthy Heart Profile provide detailed information necessary to determine potential treatment options.
Whatever testing option you decide, “risk” is no longer a word you should be afraid of. It’s only when you find out that you can do something to about it.
What’s the saying? “An ounce of prevention …”