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How to Assess High Risk Heart Disease or Stroke
August 12, 2021
How can you assess high-risk heart diseases or stroke?
- Do a heart health check
- Consider imaging tests for cardiac risk assessment
Cardiovascular disease (CVDs) is the umbrella term covering diseases in the heart (cardio) and blood vessels (vascular). Approximately 17.9 million people died from CVDs in the year 2019 alone, which represents about 32% of global deaths. In the Philippines, these type of diseases affect approximately 1 in every 6 Filipinos. As some people are more prone to develop CVDs, it is crucial to know how to assess for high-risk heart disease or stroke.
People who suffer from a stroke or heart disease are often left with long-term health problems and disabilities that can affect their overall quality of life. Several health conditions, age, family history, and lifestyle can place you at a higher risk for developing heart disease and stroke. While it’s true that some risk factors are inevitable as they are genetic, you can take preemptive actions to change the factors that you can control.
Some people are not aware they have risk factors for heart disease and stroke as their symptoms can be silent. For example, high blood pressure is a risk factor, yet you can go about your daily life without showing any symptoms. The sooner you find out your risk factors, the better your chances of leading a heart-healthy life. In this article, we round up a comprehensive guide on how to assess for high-risk heart disease or stroke.
Do A Heart Health Check
Preventing heart diseases and stroke can be made easier by simply calculating your risk with a heart health check. During a heart check appointment (also known as a heart risk assessment or cardiovascular disease risk assessment), your doctor will work to find out how likely you are to have heart disease or stroke in the next few years.
When your doctor does a heart health check, they may consider the following risk factors:
● Age - Age is a risk factor as the majority of people who die from heart disease and stroke are aged 65 or older.
● Height and Weight - Starting at the age of 20, you may be asked by your doctor for body mass index (BMI) calculations. BMI calculations are used to determine body fat based on height and weight. Being obese or overweight is a high-risk factor for high blood pressure and diabetes as well as heart disease and stroke.
● Blood Pressure - High blood pressure can significantly increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. It is important to screen for high blood pressure because it usually has no symptoms.
● Cholesterol Levels - Cholesterol levels can lead to plaque build-up in the artery walls and block blood flow to the heart, increasing the risk for heart diseases and stroke. Your doctor can do a simple lipid profile test to assess your cholesterol levels.
● Diabetes - Diabetes causes sugar to build up in the blood. If left undetected and untreated, the risk of death from heart disease and stroke for adults with diabetes is higher than for adults who do not have diabetes.
● Smoking Status - The risk that smokers will develop heart diseases is much higher than that for nonsmokers. Smoking also interacts with other risk factors to greatly increase the risk of heart diseases and stroke.
● Diet and Exercise - Lifestyle factors such as an unhealthy diet that is filled with saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol, and lack of physical activity can also increase the risk of heart diseases and stroke.
● Family Medical History - Having a family history of heart disease or stroke increases your risk of having the same medical conditions due to genetics.
Your doctor will then look at all the factors together to give an overall view of your “absolute risk” of heart disease and stroke. Your heart health check result will be as a percentage and can be categorized into the three risk types:
● High Risk - A score of more than 10%.
● Moderate Risk – A score between 5% to 10%.
● Low Risk – A score under 5%.
Consider Imaging Tests for Cardiac Risk Assessment
Several imaging tests may be used for cardiac risk assessment. The non-invasive tests may include a chest x-ray, CT scan, an electrocardiogram, echocardiography, and stress test (also known as ECG stress test or metabolic stress test).
Heart diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide and these can occur at any age. Keep in mind that the choices you make every day can dictate your risk of getting heart disease and stroke. Although some risk factors are inevitable such as age and family history, there are others that you can change such as your cholesterol, your diet and exercise, smoking attitudes, and your blood pressure.
At Cardinal Santos Medical Center, we help patients to know their risk for developing heart disease and stroke to help them make positive lifestyle changes. The earlier you assess your risk, the better your chances of leading a heart-healthy life.