Early Atherosclerosis - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Early Atherosclerosis

He's 60, stressed-out, over-worked and overweight. Yes, he could be at increased risk for a heart attack. But blocked arteries don't suddenly just happen. The process can start even when you're a teenager. And if your mom, dad or sibling has had a heart attack early--say, in their 60's or younger--you could be at increased risk for early heart disease too. Let's go to Mayo Clinic for the latest on how to reduce your risk of heart attack.

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"We're at almost 650 feet, and we're moving with the wind."

It's more than just the view that entices Sam Blackburn to float in nothing more than wicker, nylon and hot air.

"This is my one true passion."

At this balloon rally, Sam's giving rides to friends. They're helping him celebrate his 49th birthday, a milestone especially important in Sam's family. Sam's dad died of a heart attack at an early age - 59. And Sam, at 49, didn't want to be at 650 feet and suffer the same fate.

"What do you do if you're up in a hot air balloon and your pilot croaks?"

That wouldn't be good. So sam went to Mayo Clinic's early atherosclerosis clinic. Here, Dr. Ifthikhar Kullo told him to...

"Know your family history. It could save your life."

That's because if, like Sam, you have a parent or sibling who's had a heart attack at a young age, say before 60, your risk of having a heart attack increases. And these days cardiologists have more tools available to help reduce your risk than ever before. For people with a family history of heart disease, they measure cholesterol and blood pressure. But cardiologists also check for new risk markers including C-reactive protein, or CRP, and homocystine. Because if they're elevated, your risk of heart attack balloons.

Sam had high levels of CRP and high cholesterol. Diet, exercise and a cholesterol-lowering drug is keeping him healthy and riding the wind.

Dr. Kullo says if you have a family history that includes a parent or sibling who's had a heart attack before age 60, you may want to be evaluated by a heart specialist. If you've already had a heart attack or heart-related chest pain, you should see a cardiologist to make sure you're doing all you can to prevent another episode. For more information on heart attack, log onto http://www.medicaledge.org/2005january-1.html

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