Take the Heart Risk Factor Test

I  Keep trying to change to a healthier lifestyle, better nutrition, consistent exercise, reduced stress.  TRYING is the operant word.  I succeed for bits and burst and then fall back into old unhealthy patterns.

Despite the fact I’ve been back and forth to cardiologists and my internist over 8 times in the last 3 weeks I continue NOT losing the 20 -30 pounds that would help my conditions.

Now, I’m not here to diminish the debilitation and pain that comes with any chronic condition I’ve just been wondering why cancer patients I know are so much more motivated to change their life style than I am with fibro and cardiac problems.

The conclusion I’ve come to FOR MYSELF is that I’m not scared enough (the biggest motivator for me, and I suspect for many others, is fear.)

Logical, NO.  Emotional, YES:

  • Cancer is scary. Many years ago I had a suspicious tumor in my leg muscle and as SOON as I found out I scheduled surgery to get it OUT. I view cancer as an invader to be vanquished, shown I’m more powerful.  It doesn’t belong and when something doesn’t belong in my body it’s frightening.
  • My heart isn’t an invader, it belongs.  It might be defective but I don’t want to vanquish it.  How do I treat something that gives me life?  I nurture it, console it and Feed it.
  • Fibro resides in a mysterious place called my central nervous system.  Not even the medical establishment really knows what is happening.  There’s nothing to vanquish.  It’s invisible.  Fighting the symptoms seems almost futile.  I’m not SCARED of “it”.  It’s my brain.  I AM MY BRAIN.
  •  I have HOPE that something EXTERNAL – medication, a pacemaker, physical therapy, acupuncture, surgery, a miracle etc. – will provide the cure so I abdicate my responsibility to take charge of my own life and health.
  • I WANT someone, something else to take care of me, heal me, comfort me, cure me . . . The idea that I am responsible is at best overwhelming and at worst tiring and maddening.

However, while I wait, want and hope I am more and more at risk and more and more debilitated.

What prompted my thoughts is an excellent post on Carolyn Thomas’ Heart Sisters Blog. You can see the entire article at:

Lung tumor, Photograph by Moredun Animal Health Ltd/Science Photo Library

Here’s an excerpt: “Is there any group of doctors who have succeeded in getting their patients to stop whatever they’re doing, and to suddenly focus every ounce of energy on regaining their health?”

Yes, he (Dr. Fogoros) answers: it’s the oncologists.

Patients who are told they have cancer, he explains, often put everything in life on hold and steel themselves to do whatever is necessary (whether surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, often painful, and often lasting for months or years) to attempt a cure.

This is the same attitude that people ought to adopt when told they are at high risk for cardiovascular disease, he warns:

“After all, being told you are at high risk for a cardiac event is not all that much different than being told you have cancer. Heart disease is no less fatal, and the outcome no less dependent on your attitude and your active participation in doing what’s necessary.”

Dr. Fogoros believes that the high-risk patients who are most successful are the ones who adopt a “change it all now” attitude – the ones who accept that a complete change in lifestyle is needed. They’ll stop smoking, adopt an exercise program, and change their diet all at once. And they do it by making risk factor modification the central organizing theme of their lives.

Here is a quiz on cardiac risk factors tailored especially for women.
True or False?

For each “true” statement, give yourself the number of points indicated.

  1. My parents or siblings have had a premature (before age 55 for men, or age 65 for women) heart attack, stroke, bypass surgery or angioplasty. (2 points)
  2. I am age 55 or older, or post-menopausal. (1 point)
  3. I am a smoker. (2 points)
  4. I do not routinely exercise for at least 30 minutes, 4 times per week. (1 point)
  5. My blood pressure is over 120/80. (1 point) I have diabetes or take medication for my blood sugar (2 points)
  6. My HDL cholesterol is less than 50 mg/dl, or my total cholesterol is greater than 240 mg/dl, or I don’t know my cholesterol levels (1 point)
  7. I am 20 pounds or more overweight (1 point)
  8. I am taking birth control pills (nonsmokers add 1 point, smokers add 2 points)
  9. My blood CRP (C-Reactive Protein) level is elevated (1 point)
  10. I have metabolic syndrome. (2 points) (Metabolic syndrome is any three of the following: high blood sugar, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, hypertension, and central obesity (“fat belly.”)


Add up your points. If your score is 5 or higher, your risk of developing heart disease is high. If your score is 2 – 4, your risk is moderate. If your score is 0 – 1, your risk is low.

If your risk is high, you need see a doctor soon for a cardiac evaluation, and for help with aggressive risk modification. If your risk is moderate, you should see a doctor for a complete risk assessment and for guidance in risk modification. Even if your risk is low, you need to deal with any modifiable risk factors you have (those mentioned in statements 3 – 11.)

Mosca L, Banka CL, Benjamin EJ, et al. Evidence-based guidelines for cardiovascular disease prevention in women: 2007 update. Circulation. 2007 Mar 20;115(11):1481-501. Epub 2007 Feb 19.