Does Family History Dictate Your Heart Health?

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Doctors Are for Wusses

Doctors are for wusses. So what made me think that perhaps, at 50, I should go to a cardiologist?

Clearly, stress is not unknown to me. Could this particular cocktail of problems ultimately lead to a genuine heart attack?

Dr. Andersen starts by asking my family health history, but not before she helpfully reminds me that cardiovascular disease is still the top killer of American women, and that those 35 to 54 appear to be dying from it at an increasing rate. Worst of all, nearly half of women say they wouldn't call 911 immediately if they thought they were having a heart attack. "They're so busy, they think, 'I can't be having a heart attack now -- I have to pick up my daughter,'" says Dr. Andersen. "As a result, they tend to come to doctors later than men, are less likely to be diagnosed -- and if they are diagnosed correctly, are less likely to receive lifesaving therapy quickly. That's why we've got to focus on prevention."

So, okay -- on to prevention. Dr. Andersen asks if I take medications (only Synthroid for my low thyroid -- and vodka) and gently prods me to discuss those recent stressors. I mutter something about my aversion to doctors but boast about not being too concerned since there's longevity in my family. "Yes, I had all my grandparents until I was in my 30s," the 49-year-old doctor says, slowly. "I also had a 50-year-old brother who was captain of the football and track teams in high school, exercised, never smoked. Worked like a dog. Probably didn't eat well. Didn't go to the doctor. Dropped dead of a heart attack last Labor Day."

Point taken.

Continued on page 3:  What Matters


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