Summit4CAD is focused on prevention. Let’s change the way medicine is practiced by becoming better stewards of our own health. This means being educated, informed, and willing to look at the unpleasant reality of our unhealthy lifestyle choices so we can minimize our chances of developing CAD.
One of the main reasons I decided to start Summit4CAD was the frustration I felt while sitting in the hospital (and later after my discharge – at home) trying to locate information on what I had just experienced, why I had experienced it, and what I was looking forward to in terms of recovery and possible permanent life changes.
This list of frequently asked questions is a compilation of the questions I had and the resulting research I uncovered during my recovery. The answers to these questions were taken from sourced – legitimate medical resources such as the CDC, American Heart Association, and the American College of Cardiology. In places where appropriate I have added anecdotal information regarding what I experienced during my heart attack, surgery, recovery, and now rehabilitation.
Please note that no one answer will ever fit every situation. From individual to individual; circumstances, genetics, lifestyle choices, age, sex, ethnicity, etc… may greatly affect the outcome of what you or a loved one experiences. This resource is more about answering the generalities surrounding CAD.
Lastly I want to share a frustration that I was exposed to 20+ years ago when I was working as a medical professional; too often medicine is focused on the aftermath of a disease. We should be looking at how to best prevent a deadly disease like CAD instead of focusing on the treatment of it after it has affected a patient’s life.
Below are a list of questions with links to articles written to answer them.
Genetics is by far the most powerful force in determining our physical characteristics. We’ve always known that eye color, hair color, skin tone, height, weight, and other unavoidable physical traits are inherited. The word “TRAIT” is defined as a genetically determined characteristic.
What we’re also learning with breakthrough after breakthrough in arena of genetic science is that the genes we inherit also are largely responsible for the quality of our health and our susceptibility to certain diseases.
There are a few things about the men in my family that are quite apparent when you line us up side by side: the younger men and boys are thin and lanky. What is most apparent is that the older the men in my family are – the more weight they carry. The VAST majority of over 30 adults – both male AND female (my father’s bloodline produces very few females – there have been 3 out of some 40 births in the past 4 generations) are obese. We start skinny and then start packing on weight in our 20’s until in our 30’s we are obese.
Lifestyle choices aside, this trend is PROGRAMMED in us. I can attest to what it takes to NOT let genetics have the final say in this matter. But more on that in a moment. I started life rail thin and I stayed that way until my early 20’s.
High School – all through my 4 years of school I was bone thin, lanky, and generally frustrated by my inability to build muscle or mass. I was very insecure about my weight and how I looked.
15 years old. For a time I was considered “underweight” by my family doctor and he suggested a high carb diet for my mom to put me on. I loved it. Bread, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes. And yet I still never gained weight.
What is most apparent is that the older the men in my family are – the more weight they carry. We start skinny and then start packing on weight in our 20’s until in our 30’s we are obese.
In college, late nights, working graveyard shift at 2 different area hospitals, and genetics caught up with me. From the age of about 22 on I started gaining 5-10lbs a year. Between the ages of 23 and 25 I was the “ideal weight” for my body type. I had been working out lightly with some friends. Nothing that I stuck with. Instead, I preferred my childhood and adolescent escape mechanism; riding a bicycle. I stopped riding when I was around 24. My beautiful top-of-the-line Bianchi started collecting dust in a corner of my garage.
In my late 20’s my genetics would betray me in a painful and insidious way – I started having severe lower back issues.
My older brother had been diagnosed with a genetic disease called “ankylosing spondylitis” in his early 20’s. Ankylosing Spondylitis is an inherited genetic disorder of the spine where the body attacks itself – much like with rheumatoid arthritis – destroying the soft tissue of the spinal discs. The really bad thing about ankylosing spondylitis is that once the tissue is destroyed your body replaces it with calcium deposits. Basically fusing your bones together in an excruciatingly slow and painful process. An anti-body gene marker attributed to this disorder called “HLA-B27” has been discovered in patients suffering from this disease.
I have the active HLA-B27 antigen in my bloodstream but have not developed ankylosing spondylitis, instead I have an aggressive immune response to soft tissue damage. My father (who had followed the same genetic body type path I found myself on) had developed debilitating back pain issues in his 30’s.
One day while doing yard work I felt a sharp pain and felt a “POP!” in my back and that was the start of what has been sincerely the most formative physical experience of my life. I couldn’t walk for days. Knowing what I know now – this was a rupture of my L4-L5 disc with a herniation of the disc into my spinal column. The pain was so intense. My body reacted by attacking the disc and destroying it. Luckily for me it didn’t replace the damaged disc with calcium as my brother was experiencing.
I would have flare ups of debilitating back pain 2 or 3 times a year. I started avoiding activities that might inflame my back. And I started packing on even more weight.
Age 30 – around 210lbs
Age 30 – around 210lbs
Age 30 – around 210lbs
Age 31 – around 225lbs
Age 31 – around 225lbs
By the time I hit age 33 I was 258lbs wearing a size 38 waist. I looked in the mirror and saw my father, which honestly horrified me.
My back problems were getting much more frequent and I honestly hated the way I looked. I’d look in the mirror and I didn’t recognize the bloated, puffy face that stared back at me. Most importantly I hated the way I felt. I hated getting out of breath by walking up a single flight of stairs. And I realized that my back issues and weight were directly related.
Pain motivated me to change my life. I knew I had to lose weight. I knew I had to change my eating habits and add a regular exercise regimen to my daily activities.
Cycling as always been a refuge for me emotionally. It is my happy place. Some of my happiest childhood memories were centered around the beauty and tranquility I felt when far away from the turmoil of my family home; free on my magical leg-powered machine.
I went to my local bike shop in Savannah, Georgia (Star Bike Shop) and I realized that the road bikes I loved as a teen looked too frail to handle my near 260lbs weight so I purchased a cool looking mountain bike by some guy named “Gary Fisher” and decided that until I could lose some weight I’d just ride this bike on the road.
Soon after riding I realized that riding seemed to help my back and I felt much better after a short 30 minute ride around my neighborhood. Exercise was an important aspect of my new “healthy” lifestyle. But I feel it is what I did with my unhealthy relationship with food that made the biggest difference.
I have never been a drinker. Because of the addiction issues with BOTH sides of my family I have always been terrified of drinking and becoming a slave to alcohol. I’ve witnessed family member after family member succumb to addiction and it was a trap I knew to avoid. I have always felt the same way about smoking.
What I didn’t think about was how food can become an addiction as well. I looked at what I considered my worst dietary habits and I came up with a list of things I needed to change.
Rock Bottom – Age 33 – 258lbs – size 38 waist
I saw this photo and was so depressed by it. I really had no idea who this person was.
No Soft Drinks/Sodas/Sugary Drinks – Water became my drink of choice – I did make an exception with my morning coffee. I started using Sugar in the Raw and no creamer.
No Fried Foods – if it wasn’t baked or grilled I didn’t eat it.
No Dairy – modified to limited as possible – typically if a dish had some small amount of cheese I’d eat it. But I stopped drinking milk completely and started using soy milk with cereal
No solid food after 7pm – This was HUGE for me. I’d snack right up until the time I’d go to bed. I decided that if I’d not eaten by 7pm – I wouldn’t eat.
Everything in Moderation – I started to NOT clean my plate.
It is OK to feel hungry – I decided that I didn’t need to eat any time I felt a little hunger pain. Hunger pains became a mental alarm – letting me know that I was burning fat and losing weight. They were a good thing.
That was it. I stuck to these rules and started riding my bike more and more.
At first – for what I’d say was 5 or 6 weeks it didn’t seem to make much difference in my weight. My body took time to realize what was going on and adjust.
Then the weight started melting off. As I added more exercise I lost more weight.
I hit 2 plateaus which were difficult to push through. The first at around 205lbs. I held here for almost 2 months. It was as if I hit a wall. But eventually by adjusting everything a little more I started seeing the scale lower again. The last plateau was at 190lbs. I’ve decided that this is probably the ideal weight for me. My body seems to want to find this number and stay there.
I pushed down to 175lbs where honestly I looked too thin. It wasn’t a healthy look. I adjusted thing again and went back up to 180-185lbs – where I’ve stayed – on average – for the past 13 years.
195lbs 34-35 inch waist
180lbs – 33-34 inch waist
A great illustration of my journey from miserable to healthy
In 2012 I was lifting something (that was far too heavy for me to lift safely) and I had a second “POP!” and searing intense pain. This was different. Now the pain ran down my leg.
It was so bizarre. I had really come to know my body well with all the cycling I’d been doing. I had relocated to Southern California in 2006 and was attending college (again). I rode my trusty Gary Fisher to school and back – averaging 30 miles a day some 3 to 4 days a week. I knew when my legs had been overworked.
This new back situation was unbearable. It felt like Mike Tyson had gone to town beating the crap out of my right leg. It was so bad that if I didn’t know better I’d say that I’d done permanent muscle damage to my leg; which was not the case.
For the first time since my back issues had started some 17 years before I got an MRI. And man was that an eye opener.
I had no disc between L4-L5 – which was the older injury from my late 20’s. The joint between my L4 and L5 vertebrae was “mushroomed” – meaning those two bones had been hitting each other without any padding and they were deforming as a result.
And my new pain was caused by a sizable herniation of damaged disc between L5 and S1 – which was poking into my spinal column.
I had a discectomy and a series of epidural spinal cortisone injections (4 over 3 months). I also did 6 months of physical therapy. This is when the cycling really became a way of life for me. As I had discovered before – cycling seemed to make my back feel better.
What it did was keep all of the muscles in my lower back loose and strong. It helped prevent the joints from becoming inflamed and irritated.
In late 2012 I started cycling daily. I purchased a hybrid road/urban bike (a road bike with flat bars like a mountain bike) and I started riding between 5 and 10 miles every day.
Soon I was feeling better – getting leaner but maintaining my weight because I was building new muscle. My legs went from being large and heavy (in the cycling world I’m a TT/Sprinter – I have powerful, heavy legs and can produce large bursts of speed for short periods of time) – to being lighter and lean. I was becoming an endurance cyclist. I’d push myself harder and harder – go my typical fast pace – but doing longer. I was really giving my cardiovascular system a work-out.
My lungs got stronger, my heart got stronger, and I added more and more time to my daily rides. MOST IMPORTANTLY – MY BACK WASN’T CAUSING ME PAIN ANYMORE…
By October of 2016 I’d been riding regularly for over 13 years. I’d been riding daily – pushing myself hard each day for 4 years.
2013 – 1 year into my daily riding lifetyle – my day now revolved around when I could ride.
2018 – 2 years after my heart attack – cycling is still the center of my day
2017 – one year after my heart attack – getting ready to tackle Haleakala
On October 14th, 2016, my genetics again betrayed me and I experienced a life-threatening STEMI heart attack. I had the “Widowmaker” – a 100% blockage of my LAD – the artery that supplies the largest amount of blood to your heart.
What had started with back pain and a desire to not hate the way I looked when I saw myself in the mirror or in photos – turned into the saving grace that protected my heart and saved my life.
The years of intense daily cardiac exercise had forced my body to grow a collateral artery – a new blood pathway from my unobstructed Right Coronary Artery over to the left side of my heart to help with oxygen needs during my rides.
When my LAD closed off from a blood clot around a ruptured plaque deposit in my artery wall, this new collateral artery kept enough blood flowing to the tissue on the left side of my heart that I avoided any tissue damage.
You can look back at your life and play the “IF” game – which is pointless because you chose the path you chose. I am instead so grateful and thankful that for whatever reason I chose the path I did.
I fell in love with cycling at a young age and that love has been a constant in my life since. I’m thankful that when I gained the weight that I did and I injured my back, that cycling was part of the solution. I’m grateful that I remained motivated and determined to be healthier and live a healthier lifestyle. I’m grateful that I made the choice to move where I did when I did for the area of California I live is conducive to cycling 365 days of the year. This made it so easy for me to get out and ride any time of day or night.
I made the choices I made and I am here. I am here and perfectly healthy.
An acquaintance of mine in the cycling community has a brother who is not too far from me in age who suffered a Widowmaker and thankfully survived a little over a week ago. Sadly his brother has a damaged heart as a result and has a very long recovery ahead of him. His life has been forever changed. He may never ride a bicycle again.
I DO NOT WANT THIS TO HAPPEN TO YOU.
Talk with your doctor about your family risk for CAD – and make any necessary changes in your lifestyle to be the healthiest you possible. I know you can – for if I can – YOU can.
Last Fall – 2017 – right before the first anniversary of my heart attack
October 2017 – I became the first Widowmaker Survivor to complete the full ocean to summit Haleakala cycling course – the World’s longest continual uphill paved cycling ascent.
May 2018 at 8,000ft as I climbed Mt Lemmon (9,100ft) in Tucson, AZ.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and for visiting my site. I hope it’s beautiful where ever you are – and hey! Go ride a bike!
Understanding 4 sets of very important numbers is key in knowing your immediate and long-term risk for Coronary Artery Disease.
Once you understand what these number sets represent and how your individual numbers compare to the set standards for each, you’ll have a much better picture of where your heart and vascular health stand.
Cholesterol plays a major role in the development of CAD. Fatty plaque deposits made from cholesterol build up inside your arteries. Over time, these deposits may come to restrict blood flow through your arteries which increases strain on your heart (making it work harder) and increasing blood pressure.
Diet and exercise play an important role in reducing the likelihood of plaque buildup, but these preventative measures can only go so far if you’ve inherited the predisposition for Coronary Artery Disease.
There are 3 results in your blood test (unfortunately the only way to check your cholesterol levels is through a fasting blood test) for cholesterol that you need to pay close attention to:
TOTAL CHOLESTEROL – This measurement is a overall view of the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream. Our bodies produce more cholesterol as we age. Ideally, regardless of your age, your number for total cholesterol should always be BELOW 200.
HEALTHY NORMAL – Below 200mg/dL
BORDERLINE HIGH – Between 200mg/dL and 239mg/dL
HIGH CHOLESTEROL – 240mg/dL and above
LDL – LOW DENSITY LIPIDS – Low Density Lipids are closely associated with CAD and the development of plaques. You can remember this by thinking of the abbreviation LDL – as being the type of cholesterol you want LOW. L=LOW=Bad Cholesterol.
HEALTHY NORMAL – Below 100mg/dL
POTENTIAL RISK – From 100mg/dL to 129mg/dL are acceptable in people with no risk or family history of CAD, but are of concern for those who are at risk.
BORDERLINE HIGH – From 130mg/dL to 159mg/dL
HIGH – From 160mg/dL to 189mg/dL
VERY HIGH – Above 190mg/dL
HDH – HIGH DENSITY LIPIDS – High Density Lipids are known as the “HEALTHY” cholesterol. Think of the H in HDL as standing for Healthy. The higher this number the better. HDL cholesterol is believed to act as a magnet for LDL, binding to it and helping flush it out of your blood.
LOW – Below 40mg/dL is considered low and may put you at much greater risk for CAD.
BORDERLINE LOW – Between 41mg/dL and 59mg/dL
OPTIMAL – Above 60mg/dL
SOME THINGS TO LOOK FOR:
Inherited heart disease (heart disease that is part of your DNA and was inherited from one or both of your parents) is most often identified through specific patterns in a person’s cholesterol.
If you are active with a normal BMI (Body Mass Index – I’ll explain this below) and your total cholesterol is always near borderline, is borderline, or is high, and you have a higher than desired LDL and lower than desired HDL – there is a good chance you have already developed CAD.
This was me. Very active, exercising daily, with a great/healthy diet, and a BMI of 18; yet my total cholesterol was between 198 and 217, my LDL was always in the 100-120 range, and my HDL was between 25 and 30. This pattern is associated with inherited CAD and despite my healthy lifestyle choices, I had a heart attack at age 46.
ONE MORE TYPE OF FAT IN YOUR BLOOD YOU SHOULD BE AWARE OF – TRIGLYCERIDES
Triglycerides are a form of fat in the body that stores excess energy from the food you eat. Normally these are nothing to be concerned about unless you have borderline or high cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, or low HDL cholesterol. High levels of triglycerides with high (total, LDL) and/or low (HDL) cholesterol is an indication of a much higher risk for a heart attack or stroke.
Blood pressure is the amount of pressure your blood exerts on artery walls as it is pumped through your body.
Blood pressure is expressed as two (2) numbers in a fraction, one over the other.
Systolic blood pressure (the upper number) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats.
Diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.
The abbreviation mm Hg means millimeters of mercury. Mercury was used in the first accurate pressure gauges and is still used as the standard unit of measurement for pressure in medicine.
Normal blood pressure: numbers that are within the normal (optimal) range of less than 120/80 mm Hg.
Elevated: Elevated blood pressure is when readings are consistently ranging from 120-129 systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic. People with elevated blood pressure are likely to develop high blood pressure unless steps are taken to control it.
Hypertension Stage 1: Hypertension Stage 1 is when blood pressure is consistently ranging from 130-139 systolic or 80-89 mm Hg diastolic. At this stage of high blood pressure, doctors are likely to prescribe lifestyle changes and may consider adding blood pressure medication based on your risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) such as heart attack or stroke.
Hypertension Stage 2: Hypertension Stage 2 is when blood pressure is consistently ranging at levels of 140/90 mm Hg or higher. At this stage of high blood pressure, doctors are likely to prescribe a combination of blood pressure medications along with lifestyle changes.
Hypertensive crisis: If your blood pressure readings suddenly exceed 180/120 mm Hg, wait five minutes and test again. If your readings are still unusually high, contact your doctor immediately. You could be experiencing a hypertensive crisis. If your blood pressure is higher than 180/120 mm Hg and you are experiencing signs of possible organ damage such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, change in vision, difficulty speaking, do not wait to see if your pressure comes down on its own. Call 9-1-1.
Prolonged untreated high blood pressure can lead to irreversible tissue and organ damage. Additionally high blood pressure is closely associated with heart attack and stroke.
Your blood sugar level (also called blood sugar concentration or blood glucose level) is the amount of glucose present in your blood. Glucose is a simple sugar and approximately 4 grams of glucose are present in the blood of a 70-kilogram (150 lb) person.
The body tightly regulates blood glucose levels as a part of metabolic homeostasis (glucose is the primary source of energy and is critical for normal function and 60% of the glucose in your blood is absorbed by your brain for routine functioning).
If you have high blood glucose readings, it may indicate an issue with your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. This is very serious for if blood sugar levels remain too high many long-term health problems including heart disease, cancer, eye, kidney, and nerve damage may occur. High blood sugar is a primary risk factor in the development of CAD.
NORMAL: A fasting blood sugar level less than 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L)
PREDIABETIC: A fasting blood sugar level from 100 to 125 mg/dL (5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L)
DIABETIC: If it’s 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) or higher on two separate tests, you have diabetes and are at much greater risk for heart disease.
Blood glucose levels are maintained by your pancreas and a hormone produced by your body called insulin. In people without the predisposition for inherited diabetes (Type 1 or Type 2), blood sugar can be managed with diet and exercise. Likewise, if you have a healthy diet and you exercise regularly, you are at less risk of developing diabetes if the genes for it run in your family. In many cases diabetes onset is experienced with obesity, lack of physical activity, poor diet, and stress.
The body mass index (BMI) is a value derived from the mass (weight) and height of an individual. BMI is defined as the body mass divided by the square of the body height, and is universally expressed in units of kg/m2, resulting from mass in kilograms and height in meters.
BMI may also be determined using a table (See below) or chart which displays BMI as a function of mass and height using contour lines or colors for different BMI categories (See below), and which may use other units of measurement (converted to metric units for the calculation).
Commonly accepted BMI ranges listed below:
Very severely underweight = BMI of 15 or under
Severely underweight = BMI of 15 or 16
Underweight = BMI of 16 to 18.5
Normal (healthy weight) = BMI of 18.5 to 25
Overweight = BMI of 25 to 30
Obese Class I (Moderately obese) = BMI of 30 to 35
Obese Class II (Severely obese) = BMI of 35 to 40
Obese Class III (Very severely obese) = BMI of 40 or above
Click on a table above to view
BMI is an attempt to quantify the amount of tissue mass (muscle, fat, and bone) in an individual, and then categorize that person as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese based on that value. There is some debate about where on the BMI scale the dividing lines between categories should be placed.
Understanding the important basics of your own health and well being is vital in reducing your risk for serious, potentially deadly conditions and diseases.
Think of your body as a machine like your car. You have to take care of your car to keep it in working condition. You have to check the oil, change filters, and put fresh gasoline and oil in it, etc… For your body you have to check your blood (cholesterol, blood sugar), check your blood pressure, and make healthy lifestyle choices regarding diet and exercise. When your car is in good mechanical condition you can depend on it getting you where you need to go without fear of it breaking down. Your body is no different.
By understanding the importance of the numbers above and taking the time to have them checked, you are taking an important and necessary step in ensuring you can remain in good health.
DO NOT HESITATE TO DISCUSS ANY OF YOUR NUMBERS THAT MAY BE OUT OF RANGE WITH YOUR DOCTOR! Ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable that your health challenges are being addressed.
Lastly, the responsibility for your health falls on you. You can choose to ignore signs that there may be a potential problem with you current health choices and lifestyle OR you can make life changes (many are difficult) to change the course you’re on and work to optimize your health.
Recent high-profile heart attack success stories such as Writer/Director Kevin Smith’s (@ThatKevinSmith) survival of a STEMI LAD heart attack (Widowmaker) and several recent studies showing that a greater percentage of heart attack victims are surviving due to advances in treatment; does not lessen the significance of experiencing a heart attack.
MYTH – I had a minor heart attack.
TRUTH – THERE ARE NO MINOR HEART ATTACKS!
The survival rate for STEMI (ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction) heart attacks is still around 10%. A STEMI heart attack is any heart attack (infarction) where there is a 100% blockage of a coronary vessel (artery). STEMI heart attacks produce cellular death of heart tissue; tissue that cannot regenerate. This means that even if you survive the initial event you will (in great probability) be living with a permanently damaged heart.
This means that depending on the amount/severity of the damage and if the damaged area includes any of the heart’s electrical nodes (which regulate your heart beat); you could be facing permanent disability with a greatly restricted lifestyle. A non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) is a heart attack that is caused by a partial blockage of a coronary vessel – one which reduces blood flow enough to cause heart tissue damage. Although these heart attacks are survived in much greater numbers, the end result is still a damaged heart and a potential loss in one’s ability to live a normal life.
The most recent statistics from the American Heart Association show that over 800,000 people will die from CAD and CAD related conditions this year. That’s one every 40 seconds – or 1 out of every 3 deaths total.
Heart disease kills more people than cancer, car accidents, and gun deaths combined (Sources – WHO (World Health Organization) & CDC (Centers for Disease Control) – USA Statistics for 2017.
Death by CAD – 2,200 per day
Death by Cancer – 1,644 per day
Death from Auto Accidents – 102 per day
Death from guns – 96 per day
Daily deaths from CAD = approximately 2,200. Deaths from cancer, auto accidents and gun deaths = 1,842.
The VAST MAJORITY of people who experience a heart attack and survive will have a diminished quality of life and a shorter life expectancy. The average survival rate for a heart disease patient post heart attack varied between 5.4% and 8.3% for a 17 year period in a study conducted with 146,743 patients in the USA. Ethnicity and sex were major factors in the discrepancy between survival rates with women (6.7%) and minorities (5.4%) experiencing lower survival rates than Caucasian males (8.3%).
This study did not address the quality of life changes that these populations experienced as a result of their heart disease.
I cannot reiterate how lucky I am. Without knowing what I was doing, I made life choices which directly led to my survival and full recovery from a STEMI heart attack. When I say full recovery I want to be clear – I have a stent in my heart and I have to take medication every day (and I will for the rest of my life). Where I am “fully recovered” is that my heart didn’t have permanent damage and I have no restrictions on how I live my life. Well, other than having to make accommodations for taking daily medication and being aware that I have a small piece of platinum that is now a permanent part of my heart.
Kevin Smith was also lucky. He is one of the 10% of widowmaker survivors that has been given a 2nd chance to change his lifestyle and live a healthier life. But that doesn’t mean that he’s going to make a full recovery. He is now facing (like myself) a new set of projections for life expectancy and quality of life that are pretty grim.
Lifestyle choices are very important indicators for heart disease but they alone cannot be used to determine a person’s risk for heart attack or CAD.
Sadly many heart attack victims live with a false sense of security, unaware that they are living with a potentially deadly disease.
Lifestyle choices are very important indicators for heart disease but they alone cannot be used to determine a person’s risk for heart attack or CAD.
I have lived a very healthy lifestyle the vast majority of my life. I’ve never smoked, done drugs, or had a poor diet. I cut fried foods, dairy, beef and pork from my diet over 15 years before my heart attack. Likewise I’ve never been a drinker of soft drinks or alcohol. In addition to having a much better than average diet (for someone living in the USA), I exercise daily – a minimum of at least 45 minutes (those are my calves in the photo above).
On paper – discounting the MOST IMPORTANT INDICATOR for heart disease – I was the last person you’d suspect would have a deadly heart attack at age 46.
THE MOST IMPORTANT INDICATOR for heart disease is heredity – genetics – family history. Dozens of genes have been identified and associated with heart disease. These genes are passed down from generation to generation via our DNA.
You can live life as healthy as possible – making healthy choices such as:
The Best Diet (healthy natural foods, low fat/cholesterol, low sugar intake)
Active/Healthy Lifestyle (exercise regularly and maintain an ideal body weight/BMI)
No smoking or alcohol
And you can still have CAD. I know – because when I suffered my heart attack – I was and had been living the lifestyle above for decades.
If the members of your immediate family have had issues with:
Uncontrolled Blood Pressure
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
Blood clot formation in the legs
Then YOU are at a much greater risk for developing the same.
If your family has a history of CAD and you have borderline, moderate, or high cholesterol – you need to discuss medication options for managing your cholesterol with a qualified physician.
I inherited CAD. It’s been with me my entire life. The plaques (build up of fatty material in my arteries) which lead to my heart attack have most likely been with me since I was a teen. I was literally a ticking time bomb.
I was lucky. I survived and I am healthier now that I’ve ever been in my entire life.
DO NOT COUNT ON LUCK. Get your blood tested and don’t be afraid or timid when it comes to asking questions to your doctor about what your test results mean.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER – and understanding your risk for CAD is the first step in beating the odds and living a full, healthy, productive life without the shadow of heart disease looming over all that you do.