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Over-40's 'should know their heart attack and stroke risk'

Everyone over the age of 40 should understand their individual level of heart attack and stroke risk, a medical expert has stated. Marvin Lipman MD, chief medical adviser to Consumer Reports, highlighted the importance of understanding the risk factors involved. He suggested those who find they are at risk should consider lifestyle changes to reduce their level of risk. 

Statins and a number of other medicines are available to treat patients at risk of developing heart disease and having a stroke, yet most healthcare professionals recommend patients examine their lifestyle and make adjustments to reduce their risk levels first. "Lifestyle changes can slash your risk of heart attack, and in some cases eliminate or reduce your need for medication," Lipman advised. Factors putting patients over 40 at risk of heart disease or stroke include: being overweight, being inactive, drinking alcohol in excess, having an unhealthy diet and smoking. 

"Everyone 40 and over should know their overall risk of having a heart attack or stroke," Lipman asserted. Patients concerned about their risk level were advised to take a test using a heart disease risk calculator developed by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. A healthy patients has a 10-year risk level lower than 7.5 percent. 

Patients with a risk factor higher than 10 percent, or with a high cholesterol level, may benefit from statins. However, Consumer Reports consultants also suggested lifestyle changes should be the first options explored. Medication used to treat high blood pressure (other than statins) include: ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and diuretics. The importance of maintaining or achieving a healthy weight was highlighted by Consumer Reports, which explained that for every 11 pounds of weight lost, a patient can reduce their systolic pressure by up to 10 points.

Earlier this month, a UK study conducted by researchers at the University of Glasgow highlighted the link between an active lifestyle and good heart health in a study which showed cycling to work was associated with a 46 percent lower risk of heart disease over five years when compared to patients with a sedentary commute.

Statins are among the most prevalent preventative heart disease medications, used to lower cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. They are often prescribed to patients with risk factors for heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, claiming the lives of more than 600,000 people a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Statins lower the amount of cholesterol made by the liver and reduce levels of cholesterol already in the blood. Commonly prescribed statins include Lipitor (atorvastatin) and Zocor (simvastatin). If you are concerned about your level of risk for heart disease or a stroke, speak to your doctor about possible lifestyle changes and courses of medication.