cardiac risk factors

Regular Screenings and Knowing Your Numbers Can Help Catch Heart Disease Early

  • Posted Feb 04, 2019
  • Christine Walker

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year – that's one in every four deaths. That’s why, during American Heart Month, Holy Cross Hospital would like to encourage you to care for yourself and your loved ones by reminding you of the importance of regular health screenings.

Heart disease affects different populations in different ways. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, both Hispanic-American adults and Asian-American adults are less likely to have heart disease than non-Hispanic White adults. African-American adults are more likely to have high blood pressure and more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic whites.

For people of all ethnicities, knowing and properly managing your biometric numbers such as your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, can prevent or delay heart disease and its complications.

Of special interest regarding blood pressure numbers, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) have revised the guidelines for the detection, prevention, management and treatment of high blood pressure. The new guidelines – the first comprehensive set since 2003 – lower the definition of high blood pressure to account for complications that can occur at lower numbers and to allow for earlier intervention. Blood pressure categories in the new guidelines are:

•Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg

•Elevated: Systolic between 120-129 and diastolic less than 80

•Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89

•Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg

•Hypertensive crisis: Systolic over 180 and/or diastolic over 120, with patients needing prompt changes in medication if there are no other indications of problems, or immediate hospitalization if there are signs of organ damage

The best way to find out if your numbers are within a healthy range for your gender, height and age is to have annual health screenings. 

Additionally, having a primary care physician (PCP) who can coordinate your care is vital to your good health. 

A PCP typically specializes in family medicine, internal medicine or general practice. If you don’t have a PCP, finding one is easy. Just visit your insurance carrier’s website, look for the “find a doctor” area and follow the instructions.

If you have any changes in your health and you’ve got questions, call the nurse line offered by your medical plan. 

As your trusted health partner for life, Holy Cross Hospital is committed to helping you Live Your Whole Life by nurturing well-being through body, mind and spirit.


What is Metabolic Syndrome?

  • Posted Jan 03, 2011
  • Vicente Font, MD, FACP, FCCP, FACC

bright-ideaMetabolic syndrome is a grouping of cardiac risk factors that result from insulin resistance (when the body's tissues do not respond normally to insulin). A person with metabolic syndrome has a greatly increased risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death.

The risk factors seen in metabolic syndrome include: insulin resistance, obesity (especially abdominal obesity), high blood pressure, abnormalities in blood clotting, and lipid abnormalities. Specifically, metabolic syndrome is diagnosed if any three of the following are present:

• Elevated waist circumference: 40 inches or more for men; 35 inches or more for women
• Elevated triglycerides: 150 mg/dL or higher
• Reduced HDL (“good”) cholesterol: less than 40 mg/dL in men; less than 50 mg/dL in women
• Elevated blood pressure: 130/85 mm Hg or higher
• Elevated fasting glucose: 100 mg/dL or higher

Why Are These Risk Factors Grouped Together in Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is linked to your body's metabolism, possibly to a condition called insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas that helps control the amount of sugar in your bloodstream. In the body's attempt to compensate for insulin resistance, extra insulin is produced, leading to elevated insulin levels. Frequently, the insulin resistance will progress to overt type 2 diabetes, which further increases the risk of cardiovascular complications. In fact, another name for metabolic syndrome is pre-diabetes.

Who Gets Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome tends to run in families, along with the propensity for type 2 diabetes. Metabolic syndrome will occur in susceptible people who become overweight and sedentary. So, metabolic syndrome (like type 2 diabetes) can most often be prevented with exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Treatment of Metabolic Syndrome

Treating the Insulin Resistance
Without going into too much detail, sometimes diabetes medications may be necessary. Medications such as metformin (Glucophage®), thiazolidinedione drugs like troglitazone (Rezulin®) and acarbose (Precose®), alone or in combination, have been used to improve insulin sensitivity mainly by reducing plasma glucose by different mechanisms. Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors include acarbose and miglitol, which can help lower the absorption of sugar and carbohydrates in the intestines, reducing the absorption of sugar after meals. As you may suspect, diet and exercise (again) is crucial in the management of insulin resistance.

Treating Lipid Abnormalities
While the lipid abnormalities seen with metabolic syndrome (low HDL, high LDL, and high triglycerides) respond nicely to weight loss and exercise, drug therapy is often required. Treatment should be aimed primarily at reducing LDL levels according to specific recommendations. Once reduced LDL targets are reached, efforts at reducing triglyceride levels and raising HDL levels should be made. Successful drug treatment usually requires treatment with a statin, a fibrate drug, or a combination of a statin with either niacin or a fibrate.

Treating the Clotting Disorder
Patients with metabolic syndrome can have several disorders of coagulation that make it easier for blood clots to form within blood vessels. These blood clots are often a precipitating factor in developing heart attacks. Patients with metabolic syndrome should generally be placed on daily aspirin therapy to help prevent such clotting events.

Treating the Hypertension
High blood pressure is present in more than half the people with metabolic syndrome and, in the setting of insulin resistance, high blood pressure is especially important as a risk factor. Adequate blood pressure treatment in these individuals can substantially improve their outcome.

The key to preventing and metabolic syndrome, however, remains diet and exercise; let me say it again: diet and exercise.

To read future blog posts from Dr. Vicente Font, visit the Jim Moran Heart & Vascular Center Blog.

About Holy Cross Hospital

Holy Cross Hospital is a nonprofit, Catholic hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, dedicated to innovative, high quality and compassionate care. For nearly six decades, Holy Cross has continuously expanded its services to provide leading-edge care for their patients in Florida and for those from elsewhere in the United States. Holy Cross also offers an International Services program to ensure that patients from outside the U.S. receive the care they need.

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