While the new year brings resolutions to get in shape, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends a “risk-stratification” approach to exercise participation. This means that the level of risk corresponds to the number of heart disease risk factors a person may have. These factors (high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, family history of heart disease, smoking habit, obesity and abnormal glucose tolerance) may indicate danger in starting an exercise program.
Tests that help determine heart disease risk
According to the American Heart Association, the key to preventing cardiovascular disease is managing your risk factors through screening tests during regular doctor visits. Below are the screen tests recommended by the AHA.
- Blood pressure screening: This is one of the most important tests because high blood pressure has no symptoms so can’t be detected without being measured. High blood pressure greatly increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. If your blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg, be sure to get it checked at least once every two years, starting at age 20. If your blood pressure is higher, your doctor may want to check it more often.
- Fasting lipoprotein (cholesterol and triglycerides) profile: This blood test should be taken every five years, starting at age 20. It measures total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Body weight: During every healthcare visit, your doctor should check your body weight you to calculate your body mass index and measure your waist circumference. These measurements tell you if you’re at a healthy weight. These screenings should begin at age 20. About two of every three adults are now overweight or obese. This is dangerous because obesity increases blood pressure, triglycerides, total and LDL cholesterol, and can induce diabetes. These risk factors increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Blood glucose level: Starting at age 45, you should have your blood glucose level checked at least every three years. High blood glucose levels put you at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. If you’re overweight AND you have at least one additional cardiovascular risk factor, your doctor may recommend blood glucose test even if you’re not yet 45.
- Tobacco, diet and physical activity habits: Tell your doctor if you smoke at your next healthcare visit. Also discuss your diet and physical activity habits. If you smoke, your doctor can suggest approaches to help quit. If there’s room for improvement in your diet and daily physical activity levels, your doctor will provide helpful suggestions.
Take the next step:
- See your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program if you have any of these heart disease risk factors.
The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit the Heart and Vascular page on UofMHealth.org.