Feb 09 2018

Noem: Know Your Heart

Never underestimate the power of your story. Earlier this year, Aletha Maki visited our Washington, D.C., office from Rapid City. Her granddaughter had been diagnosed with high cholesterol at age two, a condition brought on, the family learned, by a genetic disorder called familial hypercholesterolemia (or FH). Once diagnosed, the disease is manageable. But 90 percent of those with FH are unaware, and therefore, go untreated.

According to the FH Foundation, “Left untreated, men are at a 50% risk of a fatal or non-fatal coronary event by age 50, and women are at a 30% risk by age 60.” Aletha’s family each got tested after her granddaughter’s diagnosis. Her daughter, son-in-law, and grandson were also found to have the condition. With as many as 1,700 South Dakotan likely to have the disease, Aletha’s “ask” of our office was to help spread awareness. February is recognized as American Heart Month, so it seemed like an appropriate time to help raise awareness about FH and other heart conditions.

Cardiovascular disease can be the result of genetics, lifestyle or a combination of the two. Understanding the root of your condition may help your doctor hone in on a treatment. Additionally, as is the case with FH, an early diagnosis of a genetic condition could help reduce your risk of a cardiovascular event later in life. So, don’t wait until you have a problem to get to know your heart. Schedule a trip to your doctor’s office and ask them about heart health. Use your doctor as a resource to help set goals.  Then, listen to their advice.  If you need medication – for high blood pressure, cholesterol, or something else – take it as prescribed.  If you’re having trouble doing so, you can talk to your doctor about that too.

In many cases, lifestyle changes might help too. Even 15 minutes of walking a few times a week can make a difference.  Why don’t you try it for February and see if you can make it a habit?  While you’re at it, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends kicking some other unhealthy habits too, like smoking.

Simple changes on your plate can make a big difference too. The American Heart Association posts great heart-healthy recipes at recipes.heart.org, if you’re looking for something new to cook up.

Every year, 610,000 people lose their life to heart disease, an astounding number when you consider that’s nearly equivalent to South Dakota’s population. The number is certainly troubling, but as time goes on, research teaches us about more ways in which we can manage this disease. To take advantage of that information, however, you must first get to know your heart. Take inspiration from Aletha’s family. Get a check-up. Learn what can be done to minimize any risk factors you have. And make a change today.

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