What do we mean by hidden heart disease? Aren’t health issues related to the heart and arteries obvious?
Very often, they are not. In a study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers at the Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark examined more than 9,500 people aged 40 or older who had no symptoms and no history of heart disease. Nearly half of the participants were found to have signs of coronary heart disease or build-up of plaque in the arteries that could restrict blood flow.
According to the CDC, approximately 697,000 people in the United States died of heart disease in 2020. This makes heart disease one of the leading causes of death in almost every social and ethnic sector, regardless of gender. The CDC also reports that half of the men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms. For women, that’s 64%, according to the Baylor College of Medicine.
Metabolic Health and Cardiac Risk
These statistics may be alarming, but just because heart disease may not be directly observable doesn’t mean you cannot assess your risk of a heart attack. The approach to doing so is based on the concept of metabolic health.
The word metabolism refers to your body’s chemical processes related to energy production and cellular function, reproduction and repair. Over the past few decades, scientists have learned that there are five observable signs of poor metabolic health:
- Large waist circumference
- High blood pressure
- High blood glucose
- High levels of triglycerides
- Low levels of HDL cholesterol
The simultaneous presence of three or more of these symptoms, or the need for medication to control them, is known as “metabolic syndrome.” The presence of metabolic syndrome places an individual at high risk of cardiovascular disease.
Since the signs of metabolic syndrome are readily observable or measurable for most people, the “hidden” nature of heart disease is actually not so hidden. Fortunately, metabolic syndrome can be reversed. And the actions that you take to do so can pay big health dividends.
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