What is cardiovascular risk and how do you test it?
February 22, 2021
What is a cardiovascular risk?
What is Cardiovascular Risk?
When we talk about your cardiovascular health, we’re talking about anything to do with the heart and blood vessels. It is possible through certain blood tests to see how well your heart is working and assess your risk of developing CVD (Cardiovascular disease).
CVD is the general term for diseases associated with the heart and blood vessels. There are a number of serious diseases and conditions that can disrupt the heart’s normal functioning:
Heart attack (Myocardial infarction) – A heart attack is when blood flow to the muscles of the heart decreases or suddenly stops., This most commonly is due to a blood clot, which breaks away from plaques that have formed within the arteries of the heart.
Arrhythmia is when the electrical activity within the heart, which is known as ‘Sinus rhythm’, is disrupted. This electrical activity is important so that the muscles of the heart are able to contract synchronously and thereby supply the body and lungs with blood. This can affect the heart rate - either going too fast or too slow. This can often occur independently of an arrhythmia. Untreated arrhythmia can lead to complications such as stroke or cardiac arrest.
Heart failure is where the heart muscles are no longer able to efficiently pump blood around the body. This can often be due to damage that has been occurring over many years and is seen in individuals who have poorly managed blood pressure and raised cholesterol.
Cardiomyopathy describes general diseases of the heart muscle. The heart can enlarge, the walls thicken and become stiff. This affects the heart and its ability to pump blood around the body.
Peripheral artery disease, also known as peripheral vascular disease, is the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries that can restrict the blood flow to the arms and legs. ·
A Stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is restricted and starves the brain of oxygen. Those with a higher cardiovascular risk of developing heart diseases are more likely to have a stroke.
What is a Cardiovascular blood test?
A cardiovascular risk panel is a routine blood test. One of our trained professionals will take a sample of blood which will be analysed. We will evaluate the cardiovascular risk of you developing diseases of the heart.
What does a Cardiovascular blood test measure?
Lipid panel test - this is a test that gathers a profile of fats and fatty substances (lipids) in your body. It measures a variety of lipids including:
High density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C)
Low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C)
The lipid panel test provides a picture of your risk of developing CVD and ultimately how healthy your cardiovascular system may be. Your body needs cholesterol to function properly but, by eating lots of fatty foods, the excess cholesterol can form plaque in your blood vessels, narrowing them and hardening the arteries. Before taking a lipid panel test you will be asked to fast for about 8-10 hours, usually overnight.
C-reactive protein is a substance produced by the liver that indicates inflammation. Persistently high levels of this protein can highlight that you may be at higher risk of developing heart diseases. This is because high CRP levels are a sign of lifestyle habits (like smoking, drinking or overeating) that can increase cardiovascular risk.
Using the information from these blood tests, your cardiovascular risk can be calculated to see if your heart is healthy or if you are at risk over the next 5 to 10 years.
Cardiovascular risk factors
There are many factors that can affect the heart and increase cardiovascular risk:
Age - cardiovascular risk increases over the age of 40·
Family history - if you have a family member who has suffered from heart disease your risk could be higher
Weight - being overweight increases the risk of heart disease
Smoking increases the risk of heart attacks, heart failure and stroke
Lack of exercise
Pre-existing heart problems
Sex - Men are more at risk
Specific medications which increase your risk of heart disease such as chemotherapies
Signs of Cardiovascular Problems
If you experience signs of heart problems, it is vital you don’t ignore them. Early symptoms can include:·
Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Reduced ability to exercise
Fatigue and weakness
Swelling in the legs, arms or ankles
Persistent coughing or wheezing
Signs of a stroke include:
Face muscles start to droop on one side
Weakness in the arms
Speech becomes slurred or inability to speak
If you or anyone around you experience any signs of a stroke or a cardiac event it is vital to alert emergency services immediately.
A happy and healthy heart
Healthier lifestyle choices can dramatically decrease your cardiovascular risk and keep your heart fit and healthy:
Lowering levels of saturated fat intake
Lowering levels of salt intake
Lowering levels of sugar intake
Getting lots of fibre
Eat lots of fruit and veg
Losing weight and controlling your weight
Cutting down on alcohol
If you think you might have Cardiovascular problems or be at risk of developing CVD, it's easy to get tested with Melio. Our General Health Check will check your cholesterol and give you an overview of your personal health. Find out more about getting a General Health Check here, and book your test today.
Leong, Darryl P et al. Reducing the Global Burden of Cardiovascular Disease, Part 2: Prevention and Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease. Circulation research vol. 121,6 (2017): 695-710. doi:10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.117.311849
Welsh, Claire et al. Comparison of Conventional Lipoprotein Tests and Apolipoproteins in the Prediction of Cardiovascular Disease. Circulation vol. 140,7 (2019): 542-552. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.119.041149https://
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