August 2014

Uncontrollable Risk Factors in Heart Disease and Stroke

Risk Factors in Heart Disease and Stroke Which Are Uncontrollable

Since we cannot affect how old we are, our gender or heredity it is useless to think of these as factors in the creation of heart disease and stroke. In fact, most all of the real risks are controllable.

Researchers and physicians often give us the impression that hereditary is a very important factor. It is stated over and over again that if an individual's parent or close relative has a history of heart attack or stroke at an early age that they are more likely themselves are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. This suggests that in a few people the tendency to have a heart attack or stroke is familial.

In many of these cases, however, there are other factors that contribute to the risk of heart disease and stroke which are very different from those that the normal average person endures. Certainly the smoking, lifestyle, lack of exercise and high fat diet can contribute to the process and if not weighed can give the impression that hereditary factors are operating.

However, there are a number of other "genetic factors" which can contribute to the risk of heart attack and stroke. For example, some of these individuals have abnormalities in lipid metabolism, platelet or clotting disorders, diabetes mellitus or other rare occurrences which increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Today, many members of the medical profession are generally less impressed by the role of genetics. The fact that a father, brother or grandparent had a heart attack or stroke does not mean that you are immediately at risk. Evaluation of the controllable risk factors are more likely to tell us what your risk really is.

If you do have a family history of heart attack or stroke this is an indication that you should immediately switch into a preventive mode of operation. Diet, exercise and lifestyle factors should be evaluated and negative behavior should be eliminated.

 

Age

Age itself is only a factor because of its relationship to the controllable factors. That is, if you eat poorly, smoke, drink alcohol and live a stressful life for 50 years it is likely that your risk of heart attack or stroke will be higher than a 50-year-old who eats well, exercises regularly and doesn't smoke.

The common myth that as people age, they have an increased tendency to get sick, suffer chronic diseases is exactly that a myth. When individuals' eat a normal American diet, lives a life as stressful as the average American does and has as much negative feelings and self-image as the average American does it is not so strange that they have so many chronic diseases.

Experience has taught us that there have been many cultures where individuals suffer few chronic diseases, live to ripe old ages of 100, even 110 or 120 years of age and remain fully active and productive. Because it seems to us that we are the norm, these situations seem aberrant. It is likely however that we are the aberrant ones and that they are the norm. With help and thought maybe we can find out what they do to live life so long and with so much quality. In the Prevention and Wellness series we will look at a number of the reasons and factors that can and do contribute to longevity and quality of life.

 

Gender

Statistics suggest that men are more likely to have heart attacks than women. This certainly appears to be true until women go through the menopause. After that the difference between them appears to decrease, the rate of heart attacks comes closer together.

As we suggested earlier middle age men have the highest risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack and middle age women appear to be protected from heart attack. The current thought is that estrogen protects women from heart disease. As estrogen levels fail the risk of heart attack in women appears to rise. By age 60 there is little difference in the rates between men and women. Studies also suggest that male and female children have similar levels of HDL cholesterol but after puberty begins HDL-Cholesterol levels fall in boys and rise in girls.

The problem with these statistics is that they are based on only limited observations and data. Since we do not really understand, all of the factors involved in lifestyle, mind, body, spirit medicine we really cannot understand the range of factors that are really involved.

As women entered into the work force in the 1940', 50's, 60's, 70's and 1980's things began to change. More women began to smoke and drink, life stress changed in quality and quantity, diet changes, the number of pregnancies and live births and many other factors also changed. Needless to say, in the past years women have shown a steadily increasing frequency to have heart attacks and strokes at earlier ages.

In our section on Mind, Body, Spirit Medicine we will look at the role that some of factors that might also play a role in what we refer to as Body Symptom Language. For example, when people suffer a "broken heart" what does that ultimately mean to the body?

In our work with people we have found that the words we use and the way we think of things ultimately affects the way our immune system and body chemistry function. We will spend more time on these issues in another section.