Patients Q@A’s

I’ve got a family history of a heart attack. My father died at 52, How do I ensure it won’t happen to me?

It is very unfortunate that your father died at the age of 52.

Sadly, not uncommonly, the first manifestation of heart disease is a fatal heart attack. The cause of the heart attack is in nearly every case a build-up of fatty material called plaque, which cracks or bursts like a small pimple and this results in a blood clot or ‘thrombus’ forming which occludes the coronary artery. The heart muscle is immediately injured and if the situation is not rectified the heart muscle dies. This triggers a potentially dangerous rhythm called ventricular fibrillation, which is fatal if not treated immediately.

If you have a family history of heart attack, the best thing is to have a check with a preventative cardiologist for early detection of plaque or “atherosclerosis”. This is a very simple matter to organise with non-invasive painless testing.
My cholesterol is high. My GP said it was 6.6 and he wants to start me on statin. I am concerned because I’ve heard about side effects. How do I know if I really need it?

High cholesterol levels, particularly a high LDL (bad cholesterol) are definitely risk factors for the possibility of an underlying vascular disease in general and coronary artery disease specifically. LDL can be thought of as a vascular toxin.

Lowering your LDL cholesterol level is important and can be achieved by lifestyle measures, including an optimal diet, regular exercise and other important things such as achieving a work /life balance and reducing stress. Whether somebody requires a statin or not, is a very individual matter and is best managed by assessing an individual’s risk including plaque testing. If your doctor is considering giving you a statin but is not certain about whether you need it or if you started on statin and are experiencing side effects, then referral to a preventative cardiologist is recommended.
I’ve recently been diagnosed as having high blood pressure. My GP wants to prescribe medication. I am not so keen on this idea. Is there anything else I can do?

The answer to this question is definitely yes. Lowering blood pressure can be achieved by a number of lifestyle measures. If blood pressure is deemed to be high, then certainly many things will help including effective weight loss, an improved diet, regular exercise, meditation, stress management in general and keeping the intake of salt, coffee and alcohol under control. Your GP is well-trained to deal this problem but If your blood pressure is proving difficult to control or there is some doubt about its diagnosis or concerns with its management, I’d recommend assessment by a preventative cardiologist.