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Each February, we recognize American Heart Month. This is an ideal time to remind you to focus on heart health and we encourage you to get your families, friends, and communities in on the conversation. 

It may surprise you to know that half of the people who experience their first heart attack actually have normal cholesterol values. Cholesterol isn’t the only cause of heart attacks; inflammation can be a cause too. 

Inflammation is a precursor to plaque formation, and over time, plaque hardens and narrows the arteries. Eventually, an area of plaque can rupture. Plaque accumulates and narrows the arteries even more, limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your body. Depending on which arteries are affected, obstruction and interference of blood flow can worsen angina (chest pain) or cause a heart attack or stroke.  

At Modern Women’s Health, we test for inflammation by ordering a Cleveland Heart Panel, which is more than a cholesterol check, to look at biomarkers that can indicate plaque instability or rupture and microvascular dysfunction. You may have had a basic lipid panel and CT heart scan and been told that your ratios are “normal”. However, less than 50% of myocardial infarctions (MIs) occur in people without significantly abnormal lipids. Vessel Inflammation is thought to be the reason. A CT heart scan evaluates the level of calcified plaque around coronary vessels but not soft plaque. However, calcified plaque is not the type that is typically associated with MIs.  A carotid Doppler (sonogram of your neck vessels) can help determine if you have narrowing of the vessels or changes in blood flow that can be seen with soft and calcified plaque. 

So, how can you protect yourself from plaque formation? Adopting a low-inflammatory and low-processed food diet, exercising most days of the week, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce cardiovascular inflammation. Dental health has a correlation with heart health, so make sure you are flossing and getting your teeth cleaned every 6 months. We often recommend supplements such as Bergamot, Omega 3, Arterosil, and Berberine, and we offer expanded lipid testing which assesses cardiovascular inflammation.  

Data also suggests that starting menopause hormone therapy when younger than age 60 or within 10 years of menopause is associated with reduced cardiovascular disease risk. The menopause transition is associated with increased cardiac risk making midlife an important time to implement positive lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, data suggests that only 7.2% of women transitioning to menopause are meeting physical activity guidelines and fewer than 20% of those are consistently maintaining a healthy diet.

This is very important since a large number of women will spend up to 40% of their lives after menopause.  
Schedule an appointment to discuss your risk factors for heart disease and appropriate screening tests. We are committed to keeping our patients healthy and want to help you reduce your chance of heart disease. Please call us at (512) 301-6767 or request an appointment.


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