Do you know your heart attack risk?
Heart attacks happen to many people with no warning—which is why heart disease is called a ‘silent killer.” But it shouldn’t be that way.
There are many tools and tests that can give insights into heart health if we put them to good use.
One example was just highlighted in a review of 52 studies that was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. It’s called abdominal aortic calcification (AAC).
Researchers found that people who have AAC have a 2-4 times higher risk of a future cardiovascular event (like a heart attack).
That’s pretty huge.
It’s because calcium can build up in the aorta before it builds up in the arteries of the heart. It’s an early red flag and a sign that you need to make some changes or take some preventive measures, like…
Getting more exercise
Taking appropriate supplements
There are also other (little-used) ways to get clues about your risk for heart disease. Imaging of the abdominal aorta is not the only way.
There are also several advanced lab tests—like homocysteine, C-reactive protein, and sub-classes of the cholesterol markers you have checked at your annual physical.
Here’s the bottom line. The more information you have about your body, the more power you have to make changes that will keep you healthy. Many tools that are available to us are not used as part of routine care.
I believe that prevention is the best medicine. I also believe that the best way to practice preventive medicine is to use all of the screening and diagnostic tools at our disposal. When you’re ready to be proactive about your health, check out our services and book your first appointment!
How to recognise a heart attack
How long do you think it would take you to recognise that you might be having a heart attack? How long might it take you to recognise it in somebody else?
A heart attack happens every 5 minutes in the UK. Heart attacks can be deadly, but a new study found that one of the most important ways to save lives and improve outcomes from a heart attack is to get to the hospital quickly.
They found that getting to the hospital quickly makes a bigger difference in outcomes than how long it takes to be treated after arrival at the hospital. That’s because hospitals have become pretty efficient at acting quickly (treating heart attacks within about 45 minutes of arrival). So, changing the hospital response time by 10-20 minutes is less likely to make a difference than changing the amount of time it takes to get to the hospital.
So, let’s review the classic signs to help you recognise a heart attack:
Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest
Any of those same pressure sensations in the arms or spreading to your neck, jaw, or back
Nausea, indigestion, heartburn, or abdominal pain
Shortness of breath
Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness
Some people have a heart attack completely out of the blue. Others get warning signs hours, days, or even weeks in advance. One warning sign is chest pain that is triggered by activity and goes away with rest. This can be a good reason to seek medical help before it becomes an emergency situation.
Please share this information with anyone you love. And if you (or somebody you are with) starts to show concerning signs of a heart attack, please dial 999. It could save a life.
One more way to protect your heart.
A study that was just released last month found that dietary patterns influence the gut microbiome, which then influences markers of chronic diseases—including heart disease!
We have to look at the details to know how this applies to everyday life, so let’s do that. Here’s what the study found:
Diets rich in healthy, plant-based foods encouraged the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut
A microbiome rich in Prevotella copri and Blastocystis was associated with better blood sugar levels after meals
Other species were linked to lower levels of blood fats and markers of inflammation after meals
The microbiome had a stronger link to disease markers related to metabolism and heart health than other factors (like genetics)
Remember this: every time you eat, you’re not just sustaining your energy. You’re feeding the trillions of bacteria that live synergistically with you in your gut.
And that could have effects that extend to things like blood sugar, inflammation, and a healthy heart.
Why the pandemic is worsening IBS
If you feel like your IBS or other gut problems have been getting worse, it’s not your fault.
And you’re not alone.
Actually, a survey of more than 5000 people in 2020 with ‘functional digestive disorders’—meaning IBS or other nonspecific gut issues—found that the pandemic had made gut issues worse.
What seems to be happening is that the pandemic has created new types of stress. Stress has a major effect on gut function, especially in people who already have IBS or other functional gut problems.
So, what can you do?
You can’t often change the situation you are in, but you can seek out ways to handle it better. Here are a few things that can relieve stress and calm your digestion:
Take a breathing break. Breathe in deeply for 4 seconds, pause, and breathe out for 8 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
Get some exercise. Fresh air and movement can do wonders to calm both your nerves and your digestion.
Eat slowly. Taking the time to chew slowly and eat mindfully gives your body the signal that it is ready to rest and digest.
I have a lot more tools in my medicine chest to help with stress and IBS. Every person is unique, so I work with my patients to find the combination that works best for them.
Maybe it’s stress reduction. Maybe it’s dietary changes. Maybe it’s supplements.
If you’ve been struggling with gut symptoms that are getting out of control, I’d love to help. Please send me a message or click through to my website to book an appointment.
The latest risk factor in this pandemic.
Why do some people get really sick with COVID, while others show no signs at all? It’s a question that has been baffling doctors and scientists from the start.
We found out relatively early that people with chronic health conditions (like diabetes or heart disease) are at a greater risk of serious illness and hospitalisation. Then we learned that obesity (and even overweight) increases the risk.
Now we are seeing more and more evidence that there is another determining factor…
👉Gut Health 👈
Two new studies just came out to support this. Here’s what they say:
The composition of the gut microbiome influences the immune response and the severity of COVID infection (published in mBio)
Leaky gut may contribute to more severe disease and COVID (published in BMJ)
Here’s why this might be happening.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus binds to receptors on cells called ACE2. These receptors are present on the surface cells of the digestive tract as well as on internal organs. They may be the way that leaky gut allows the virus to reach a variety of internal organs and cause harm.
Because we’ve seen that the virus can damage organs that range from the kidneys to the heart to the liver to the brain.
Here’s the message I think we need to take away from this…
Your gut health matters.
Whether or not you have ANY other health issues or conditions, you should be taking care of your gut. You do that by eating a healthy diet that is rich in vegetables and fibre. You do that by exercising. You do that by limiting alcohol. There are just so many ways.
And if your gut health is at all compromised, functional medicine has an extensive toolkit to help.