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During the COVID-19 pandemic, routine doctor’s visits and preventative care often had to take the back burner, so over the next few months, the Health & Wealth will be speaking with experts about how you can get back on track with your preventative health care.Have a pressing question? Reach out and let us know at smithbecky@missouri.edu or aspidel@missouri.edu.

Checking up on Men's Cardiovascular Health: 'There are actually so many simple, vital steps that people can take.'

Heart disease is the number one killer of men in the United States, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men are nearly twice as likely as women to die of heart disease.

KBIA’s Rebecca Smith recently sat down with Dr. Heidi Miller, the first chief medical officer for Missouri’s Department of Health & Senior Services. They spoke about how men can be more aware of their cardiovascular health and some simple steps they can take to improve it.

"Men can take better care of themselves, by themselves."
Dr. Heidi Miller

Rebecca Smith: Dr. Miller, to start us off – what does it mean when you say cardiovascular health? What are you really asking people and men to look for, to be aware of when we talk about that topic?

Dr. Heidi Miller: We want men to take care of their cardiovascular health, as well as their entire body, but in terms of cardiovascular – so,” cardio” means heart. “Vascular” means blood vessels – and there are many things that we can do to check to make sure that our heart and blood vessels are working well.

And fortunately, everything we need to do to increase the health of our heart and blood vessels actually helps the rest of our body.

So, checking your cardiovascular health can involve checking your weight, and your blood pressure, checking your sugar to make sure that you don't have diabetes, checking your cholesterol to make sure that you don't have what we call hyperlipidemia, which is when your cholesterol goes too high, and increases your risk for a heart attack and stroke.

And the main reason why we want to monitor our cardiovascular health is to really prevent heart attack and stroke, which are one of the most common causes of death.

Rebecca Smith: I feel like we often talk about things as that final consequence, you know, you have the heart attack. So, why is it important to get people thinking instead about that prevention aspect?

Dr. Heidi Miller: There are many patients who may ignore the health of their body until they end up in the emergency room with a heart attack or stroke.

Bee Brook Photography

We know that heart attack and stroke are preventable, and definitely postponable, and some of those early warning signs we might notice, but some of them may be invisible to us.

Blood pressure has been called the silent killer. So, it's really important to check blood pressure to check it early in life and to make sure that that our blood pressure stays below 120/80.

Rebecca Smith: Now, one thing I'm curious about is when should men start taking these steps?

Dr. Heidi Miller: So, every adult should seek out a primary care visit. At least by the age of 20, you should go in get your blood pressure, check that your cholesterol checked. That's key.

Once you get established and your provider can tell you what interval you need to follow up. Certainly, by 35, we can start checking for sugar. But again, we do that earlier, if there are additional risk factors.

So, I really hope that your listeners understand that there are actually so many simple, vital steps that people can take before even stepping foot in a in a doctor's office.

And when they come to the doctor's office, these are the first things that I'm going to tell them anyway.

Men can take better care of themselves, by themselves, more powerfully –and only when those methods don't work, please seek help and partnership and coaching from a health care team.

Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.
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