June is Men’s Health Month: Spotlight on Heart Disease

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June is Men’s Health Month: Spotlight on Heart Disease

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By Bren Boston, MD

Per the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the US, causing 1 in every 4 male deaths. The American Heart Association states that 1 in 9 men, compared to 1 in 30 women, will experience sudden cardiac death. Half of the men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms.

Half of Americans have at least 1 of the top 3 risk factors for cardiovascular disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or tobacco use. Other risk factors for cardiovascular disease include being overweight or obese (68% of the adult American population), diabetes, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and excessive alcohol use.

At the top of the list of lifestyle changes that can contribute to longevity is adopting a diet high in plant fiber (like the DASH Diet = Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), the Mediterranean Diet, or the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Per the American College of Sports Medicine, participating in a minimum of 150 minutes per week of exercise is necessary just to maintain lean muscle mass, with more exercise required if sculpting or weight loss is desired. Avoiding tobacco products of all kinds, including second-hand smoke, is also a key choice towards health.

An annual exam, with blood pressure and weight measurements, and annual blood work with their physician should be encouraged for all adult men, especially men over age 40. Measuring a fasting cholesterol panel is important to help calculate ten-year risk of heart disease or stroke using an algorithm that uses the ratio of total cholesterol to good cholesterol (HDL). Men who have very high cholesterol may need to be started on a cholesterol-lowering medication in addition to a healthy diet. CoQ10 supplementation may be recommended which supports oxygen utilization and energy production in heart muscle cells.

Homocysteine is an amino acid that can be measured with a blood test. When elevated, homocysteine is thought to increase cardiovascular risk by damaging the arterial walls and increasing risk of clot formation. Elevated homocysteine levels can be due to genetics, stress, high levels of coffee drinking, and deficiency of B-vitamins and folic acid. Homocysteine can be lowered by eating or supplementing with vitamin B6, B12, and methyl-folate, by lowering stress by prioritizing coping mechanisms like meditation and exercise, reducing coffee consumption, and checking the MTHFR gene to find out if taking the active (methyl-versions) of vitamin B12 and folate are required by the individual due to genetic variations.

HS CRP is another blood test that can be done at your annual appointment to measure the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in individuals who do not have symptoms at present. Atherosclerosis, or plaque formation in the arteries, is an inflammatory process and HS CRP is a biomarker of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish and fish oil have a protective effect against heart disease by reducing inflammation, increasing good cholesterol, and supporting blood vessel health.

Cardiovascular health should be nurtured and maintained in men before a cardiac event takes place. Men who want guidance in getting on the path to optimize their healthspan can make an appointment at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine.

Dr. Boston sees patients at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine at 520 Arizona Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90401. You can make an appointment by calling (310)-451-8880 or email us at info@akashacenter.com.

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