Heart Disease Risk Reduction
by Dr. Keith Barry
Alberta Health has developed an online tool to help you calculate your “heart age”. This represents your risk of future heart disease and cardiovascular events. It is accompanied by information on how you can reduce your risk.
The Heart Disease Risk Calculator can be found at: https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Alberta/Pages/Heart-Disease-Risk-Calculator.aspx
Further information on reducing your vascular risk can be found at: http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/scns/page10585.aspx
The tool does ask for your blood pressure. You can check your own blood pressure at most pharmacies or buy a home monitor. We recommend everyone check their blood pressure on a regular basis (i.e. yearly however the optimal frequency is currently unclear.) If your blood pressure is elevated persistently, write down the readings and bring them in to see your family physician for review. It is helpful to have a few different readings from a few different days as our blood pressure can fluctuate quite a bit; you cannot make much out of one single reading. When you check your blood pressure, you should have been at rest for 5 minutes prior and should not have had any caffeine or nicotine recently. More information on measuring your blood pressure can be found at the Canadian Hypertension Education Program.
The tool also asks for your cholesterol. Not everyone needs their cholesterol checked and no one needs it checked yearly. If you are on cholesterol medication (Statin) you do not need your cholesterol checked ever again (the benefit is the same regardless of cholesterol levels or reduction.) This is often a test that is done too frequently and can drive healthcare costs. Most people should have their cholesterol checked starting at age 40 and then every 3-5 years thereafter. If you have certain risk factors (i.e obesity, diabetes, smoking, family history or many others) your cholesterol and cardiovascular risk should be assessed earlier. You can see your physician to determine if you should have your cholesterol checked or have had it checked in the past.