How Much Is Your Life Worth? Or Your Heart?
Did you answer it?
Would you spend a some cash to potentially extend your life?
What if $100 would save your life?
If you can’t open the wallet and part with the coin, would your wife, husband, best friend, partner, significant other, girlfriend, mom/dad, etc.?
You bet they would!
Here is why you need to invest in yourself.
Typical scenario. (This is an account from a friend of mine).
Nice guy. Former smoker and a bit too into his career. Over the decade+ since college, he has packed on thirty pounds. But hey, he was a football player and muscle has to go somewhere right?
Long gone are the cigars, fraternity parties and late night pizza binges. Despite getting some activity walking the dog, playing with the kids and the weekly company softball games he frequently feels tired and on occasion feels a heaviness in his chest.
After some arm twisting from his wife he goes and sees the family doctor. After an EKG, BP check and cholesterol blood test he is pronounced healthy. The wife is not so sure. She calls the nurse to ask for more. How about some heart tests.
Reluctantly, the busy family doctor agrees to order a stress test. My friend proudly boasts that despite a bit of sweat, he passed that heart test with flying colors. No problem here – no worries.
Fast forward a few months and my friend’s older brother died of a massive heart attack while riding a bike with his kids. This scared the shit out of my friend, and he wanted to hash over the details.
When we got around to his indirect question – could this happen to me?
I broke the truth to him.
He has risk factors
-standard American diet (SAD)
and now a family history of early heart disease to push his risk up even further.
He quips, “What about my normal stress test?”
My response: So What. You have risk factors and some vague symptoms. The treadmill test is a pretty weak test for detecting heart disease. There are much better options.
He tears off a chunk of his double cheese and bacon burger and mumbles – like what?
Have you got $100?
Technology has afforded us many advances in health care, and so many of these are readily available to the savvy patient.
We consume health care like a commodity in the U.S. Many pay a premium for a better seat on an airplane or a bigger hotel room. It is time to open the wallet and spend a little more on life.
For about $100, you can order your own coronary artery CT scan. While I’m not advocating that everyone run out and do this now, it does deserve some thought.
The risk factors for heart disease are well established:
-Smoking or history of smoking
-Diabetes or prediabetes
-High cholesterol (more than just a number) (See my podcast, Slideshare on this)
-Sex (but women die of heart disease at a rate higher than you might think)
-Overweight or obese
-History of preeclampsia (pregnancy-related high blood pressure emergency)
Have some or most of these risk factors? Have vague symptoms that are worrying your significant other? Have a doctor that tells you that you are healthy after a cursory listen to your chest and a single blood pressure check and squelches your concerns?
Have a frank conversation with your doctor about the pros & cons of this test.
Note that those who have heart disease or symptoms that suggest a heart problem are not good candidates for this test.
In fact, anyone with symptoms should seek immediate care – call 911. You know the drill. Common sense but needs to be stated. I wrote this post to trigger thought and not serve as doctor-patient advice. I can provide education but am not your doctor.
My friend had the scan, and his score was 70. Not zero but not in the far end either. He saw his doctor again and had a more comprehensive cholesterol test (lipid profile) performed, met with a nutritionist and hired a personal trainer to help shed some weight. It turns out his symptoms were from acid reflux and alleviated with the temporary use of an antacid and changing his diet.
While the outcome could and often is different, my friend was young enough and proactive in making the changes that can improve his chances of living to a ripe old age.
Here are a few quick articles if you want to learn more:
This one is a bit heavier on the medical-speak: