Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 19

19
vape it, rub it on your skin-any
form of tobacco is bad news for
your blood vessels, because the
lining of blood vessels literally has
nicotine receptors, and if those are
stimulated, it contributes to plaque
formation," Osborne says.
Plaque is the stuff that causes
heart disease. When it builds up in
the blood vessels, those vessels narrow, preventing blood from getting
to critical organs such as the lungs
and brain.
Hadley Wilson, MD, a cardiologist and member of the American
College of Cardiology, says people
whose parents or siblings have
had heart disease need to be especially vigilant.
People with a family history of
heart disease "in particular have to
be very attentive to trying to modify the risk factors that they can,"
Wilson says.

Putting Hearts
to the Test

PHOTO BY GETTY IMAGES

Cardiologists have used a clinical
test called a coronary artery calcium
score for years to determine the
"age" of a person's heart. This CT
scan shows whether the coronary
arteries around a person's heart
have any calcified plaque built up
inside them. The test is generally
only useful for men older than 50
and women older than 40; a "zero"
score means there is no calcification. Essentially, a zero score
would make a person's heart 39
or younger, Osborne says. That's
because, ideally, people under 40
should have no visible calcification.
"I saw one guy a couple of years
ago who was 84, in great shape,
walked every day and doing all the
right stuff. And importantly, he
even had the right ancestors-no
one in his family had had heart
disease," Osborne says. "He had a
calcium score done, and it was zero.
So his arterial age at 84 was 39."
For a long time, cardiologists
used this test primarily on

people with the highest risks of
developing heart disease-those
with family history and diabetes
and who smoked.
But in 2018, the American
College of Cardiology and the
American Heart Association issued
new guidelines around the test,
suggesting that it might be a useful
tool for assessing the risk of heart
disease in patients with intermediate risks: people ages 40 to 75, without diabetes, with moderately high
cholesterol. That means the test
is potentially available to a wider
number of patients.
Osborne thinks the calcium
score is especially motivating
for people.
"Having a positive calcium score
is a very different experience [from
the traditional practice of a doctor
estimating your risk], because it
says you have the disease. We're
not talking about maybe, possibly,
eventually. You have plaque in your
arteries," he says.
And while that might not be
welcome news, it can be powerful
information. Because when you
know your heart is older than
you want it to be, you can make
changes. Unlike your real age, your
heart age can go in reverse. *

Get to Know
Your Heart

It's important to understand how
your heart works and what you can
do to care for it. This know-how
will help you avoid common heart
problems that cause 1 in 4 deaths
in the U.S. Go to uvahealth.com/
know-your-heart.

5 Tips for a More
Youthful Ticker
There is a reason doctors call heart
disease "the silent killer."
"Often, the first sign we have that
there is a problem is a cardiac event,"
says Hadley Wilson, MD, a cardiologist
and member of the American College
of Cardiology. "Because we don't know
that there's a problem until a blockage
causes a heart attack or a stroke."
Here are some tips for improving
your heart health:
Avoid the drive-thru: The typical
fast-food restaurant meal is not only
high in calories, but it's also high in
sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol-
all things that can cause problems for
the arteries around your heart. Pack
healthy snacks and meals for the road
(fruit and nuts, a healthy sandwich or
wrap), and do your best to prepare
most of your meals at home.
Exercise regularly: Your goal should
be at least 150 minutes a week, ideally
spread out as 30 minutes a day for five
days a week, Wilson says. Walking is a
good way to get moving.
Avoid tobacco: You already know
tobacco is harmful to your health.
Talk with your primary care physician
to find a quitting program that works
for you.
Talk about your family's history:
Have honest discussions with your
parents and siblings, if possible,
and learn whether they have been
diagnosed with heart disease, high
cholesterol or high blood pressure.
Know your numbers: A biometric
screening can tell you your cholesterol
numbers, blood pressure, weight and
other key indicators of your risk, which
can help you and your primary care
provider prevent heart disease.

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10/26/20 11:26 AM


http://uvahealth.com/know-your-heart http://uvahealth.com/know-your-heart

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