What has your heart done for you lately? Your heart is an amazing part of you. It sustains your everyday activities from sleeping to biking to the top of Vail Pass. You might not give your heart a second thought, but what if, like thousands of others, you are walking around with silent heart disease? You might be an avid skier or hiker or biker and feel you are in the best shape of your life, but are you addressing all aspects of your heart health?It's February, America's Heart Month. In our country heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for both women and men. Each year more than 150,000 heart disease and stroke deaths occur among people younger than 65? You might know someone who has died prematurely of cardiovascular disease and thought, "Why would someone so young die of a heart attack?" There are a number of reasons; some that include lifestyle choices. But what causes those of us who eat well and exercise regularly to be diagnosed with heart disease?Achieving better heart health is a goal many of us share, but not all of us share the same likelihood of disease. Lifestyle choices play a fundamental role in risks, and so do genetics. If you have a family history in which a first or second-degree relative - such as a father or an aunt - has had a heart attack or other cardiovascular event (such as stroke) in his or her 40s or 50s, you may be at increased risk, too.Identifying your hidden risks will empower you to modify them. In some cases, if you are genetically predisposed to cardiovascular disease, lifestyle choices AND pharmacological treatments will afford you the best chance for a long and happy life. In other cases, treatments may not include medications, but will emphasize avoidance of transfats, saturated fats and simple sugars (in other words no-fat and low-fat foods) and other dietary changes that include more whole grain products, more vegetables and fruits, and "good fats." Other non-pharmacological treatments for improved heart health include interval training and stress control. Meditation has proven benefits for cardiovascular health.Every day people with "normal" cholesterol levels have heart attacks. They have hidden risks that have not been identified with the traditional testing like total cholesterol and LDL ("bad" cholesterol) levels. Recent advances in testing have been developed to identify those of us who are genetically predisposed to have early, silent cardiovascular disease. For example, if you are a carrier of a specific gene, you are at greater risk to have a heart attack or other vascular disease at a younger age.In the Vail Valley many of us understand the importance of exercise for a healthy heart. Whether we ski, snowshoe, snowboard or do interval training with Ellen Miller at Vail Vitality Center, being outdoors during these amazing winter months makes taking care of our hearts a pleasure. So, during Heart Health month do something for your heart. Join Vail Vitality Center professionals for a panel discussion on all aspects of cardiovascular health. We'll help you understand how you can uncover your hidden risks and how to proactively address overall heart health. A Vail Vitality Center professional, Lisa Muncy-Pietrzak, MD, ABIHM is board certified in Internal Medicine and Integrative Holistic Medicine. She implements state-of-the-art biomedical technologies and an integrative scientific approach to evaluate health status and risks. Her practice, Vibrant Health of Vail, is located at Vail Vitality Center at Vail Mountain Lodge & Spa.
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