Think About Your Heart

Health Matters

(NC)—It’s the central organ of our entire body, but how many of us take our own heart for granted?

It operates for us day and night, constantly pumping the necessary oxygen and blood nutrients right up to the brain, and right down to the end of our toes.

If you don’t think about your heart much you aren’t alone – but it should be the opposite, healthcare specialists say. Anyone who wants to live a long and healthy life should be doing everything possible to strengthen and protect his or her vital organs, especially the heart.

Current data shows that heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in Canada. The poorest cardiovascular conditions lead to more than 50,000 strokes across the country every year. This means someone has a stroke every 10 minutes.

“Getting your annual checkup is a good start,” says Dr. Doug Tkachuk at LifeLabs, a leading diagnostic centre. “Doctors will assess your health and determine if a course of action, or a change in lifestyle is needed. Don’t be surprised if, in addition to different testing, a guideline for healthy eating, enough rest, and regular aerobic exercise is also recommended.”

Testing advances

Medical science continues to study the warning signals for cardiac disease, giving us better and better ways to identify early, our heart’s condition as well as the risk factors. Doctors now, for example, have the support of a few different tests. Artery inflammation and inflammation enzymes can be checked. Cholesterol build up can be tested and so can the level of the heart-healthy essential fatty acids. If you take ASA (acetylsalicylic acid) as a preventative, there is even a test to make sure it is working.

“Checking for inflammation of the artery walls is a serious marker for catching heart disease early,” Dr. Tkachuk continued. “If inflammation is ignored, the all-important arteries can weaken and rupture letting plaque seep into the bloodstream. In an effort to mend this injury, your arteries send out sticky cytokines to capture the leaking blood cells. As they clump together however, a clot can form large enough to block the artery and cause a heart attack.”

Dr. Tkachuk also points out that since this type of damage can occur with no symptoms at all, doctors are now including inflammation testing for the most accurate assessment of a patient’s heart condition.