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Jan 18, 2012

Importance of Regular Health Check-Ups

Learn why seeing your doctor is important for heart health.

Let’s face it. There are a number of excuses that we may use to avoid seeing our doctors on a regular basis—we’re too young and healthy to need a doctor, too scared that something might actually be wrong with us, or we’re just too busy. But whatever the excuse, research shows that seeing our doctors for check-ups can actually save lives, both young and old.

With heart disease remaining the number one killer of men and women nationwide, we should always have an accurate picture of our heart health. And to learn about our cardiovascular health, we must know about any risk factors that we might have, such as having high cholesterol, hypertension, or diabetes or being overweight or obese. The problem is, however, that not all of these risk factors are plain to see. In fact, blood pressure and high cholesterol can have virtually no symptoms, yet can cause permanent damage to the arteries. They can also cause heart attack and stroke—all without you ever knowing that you had these risk factors. That’s why nearly half of individuals dying from a heart attack in 2008 had absolutely no symptoms of heart disease.

While it’s a scary thought, the good news is that we can take control of our heart health in many ways. By having regular check-ups, primary care doctors can capture a picture of our health over time, helping them notice any changes that might require further attention. They will also check for the traditional cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, and can treat or refer you to a cardiologist when necessary. And for those of us who already know that we have risk factors for heart disease, such as family history or high cholesterol, you should go ahead and make an appointment with a trusted cardiologist. By addressing any risk factors that you may have, you can work with your doctor to lower risk of heart attack or stroke by up to 30 percent. And that advantage is something we should never put off until later.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How often should I see my primary care doctor?

  • Most guidelines suggest that individuals of all ages should see their primary care provider once each year, at a minimum. However, those with family history of conditions, such as heart disease, or pre-existing health conditions may need to see their healthcare provider more often.
  • When do I need to see a cardiologist?

  • If you have any risk factors for heart disease, you should see a cardiologist. These risk factors include overweight or obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and family history of heart disease, heart attack or stroke. Because cardiologists are specifically equipped to help patients manage and reduce their cardiovascular risk, it is important to discuss any concerns regarding your heart health with them.

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