The other day a patient came to the Cardio Wellness Clinic for an individualized health plan to optimize his health. When I asked how he had heard about the clinic he coldly responded, “I really don’t know why I am here. My physician insisted I come; but, my cholesterol isn’t high and I don’t believe I have any high risks for heart disease-besides I’ve heard all of this before.”
I immediately scanned his chart and looked at the many health risks this young man carried with him. I was quite alarmed that he seemed to have no knowledge of how serious his risks were. He was a male over the age of forty-five, had a sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, his bad(LDL) cholesterol was over 150 mg/dL (his goal is less than 100 mg/dL), his good(HDL) cholesterol was too low and his triglycerides (another form of bad cholesterol) were nearly double his targeted goal. His sugar level placed him in the pre-diabetic state and his weight in relation to his height placed him in the obese category with a high and unhealthy waist circumference. As science has proven, one risk factor plus another doesn’t equal a 2 fold increase risk for heart disease; but, can be over a 4 fold increase risk. You see risk factors for heart disease have a multiplicative effect and multiple risks can lead to significant health risks. This patient, whenever I began to speak would immediately stop me to let me know I need not waste my breath as “I’ve heard this all before.”
Each patient is unique with unique risks and unique health plans; but, among them all lies a common thread that in many ways connects them. In this particular case, it wasn’t that he didn’t believe he had risks for heart disease. After all, he drove himself over a hour to come to the appointment. He was fearful of having to change his life and facing the inevitable fact that his current lifestyle was slowly ruining his health. You see as long as no one says it-he doesn’t have to face it. That’s why he was stopping me every time I spoke, yet he drove over 60 miles for the appointment-he knew he needed to hear it-he wanted someone to hold him accountable.
For all of you who have untreated risks or who have let yourself go over the years-don’t be fearful and don’t be hard on yourself. It’s not about where you have been-it’s about where you are going. Most of heart disease can be prevented. For this young man, I informed him of all his risks (quite the list) and told him he was quite fortunate. He hadn’t had any damage to his heart and all the risks I acknowledged with the exception of his age were all modifiable-something he could change. I told him he still had control of his health he just needed to start making changes. He didn’t speak- tears rolled down his face, he understood. The rubber met the road.