Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death, but it goes unrecognized by the majority of the population, and simple factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels play a major role in its development.
Realizing that cardiovascular health is important is half the battle. One of the best things you can do is live a lifestyle that keeps the heart strong and pumping efficiently. But when should you consider using medication?
Knowing if you have high blood pressure and high cholesterol can give you a better idea of whether or not you are prone to stroke and heart attack, but it may be unclear who needs medication to manage these conditions.
A recently released report in the May 2017 issue of Consumer Reports attempts to answer this question with the following recommendations:
Weigh your risk: It may help to know your 10-year risk for heart attack or stroke, especially if you are over the age of 40. The risk of getting a heart attack starts to climb for males around 45 years of age, and for women, it’s around 55 years of age. The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have developed a cardiovascular risk calculator, which takes information of your current levels of cholesterol (good and bad), age, race, and blood pressure to give you a score assessing your current risk. These organizations recommend having a score less than 7.5 percent.
Don’t rush to medicate: One of the most effective things you can do to prevent heart attacks and strokes is to modify your diet and lifestyle. Being committed to eating healthier and getting more exercise may be enough to manage slightly elevated levels of blood pressure and cholesterol.
Get the right drug: If your doctor believes that the best course of action is to take medications, maybe it is—but do some research first. Not all medications are made equally, with some having more or less side effects than the other. Some forms of medication may agree with your body more harmoniously, while other can make you feel horrible. It is important to speak to your doctor if you feel that the medication you are currently taking is not working in your favor, as there are often alternatives.
Being aware of your health as you age is one of the most important things you can do to help keep you alive longer and living life to its fullest.
Related: Can you reverse heart disease?