Why are we still Hardening our Hearts?: Part 5

If you are a 55 year old man or a 65 year old woman there is no point in reading this blog because if your future contains a ‘heart attack’ there is probably nothing you can do at this stage to avoid it. You may be able to prolong its happening but it is going to happen. If you are a 25 year old man or a 35 year old woman you might want to read this blog because if your future at present contains a ‘heart attack’ you may still be able to prevent it.

If you are a 15 year old man or a 25 year old woman you should read this blog because if you want to take a ‘heart attack’ out of your future this is the only time that you can make the choices that would remove it. Worldwide studies on young people over the last 40 years have shown that those individuals who are AT-RISK of early plaque formation in their arteries, caused by a process called arteriosclerosis, already have advanced blockages by the age of 25 in men and 35 in women if no counteraction has been taken.

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The first step in activating counter action is to find out if anyone in your family has had any Arteriosclerotic Heart or Artery Disease i.e. “hardened arteries”. Especially if that was at an early age. So look at your siblings, your parents and your Grandparents and find out if you have a Family History. Data from the Niagara Schools Healthy Heart Study which started 30 years ago show that the children of parents and grandparents who have arteriosclerotic disease are already showing increased risk factors themselves.

Heart attacks from blocked arteries are very largely genetic to begin with and are then compounded by environmental choices which make them inevitable. There are four coronary arteries with a number of tributaries. When you are born the inside wall, the endothelium, is smooth like Teflon but if you have bad genetics and make the wrong choices it becomes sticky like Velcro and develops sandbars or plaques leading to blockages in your teens. If you do have a Family History the next step is to go to your Family Physician or Nurse Practitioner and find out what other risk factors you have such as your Blood Cholesterol and Blood Pressure. Do you have a low HDLC , or ‘good’ cholesterol or a high LDLC or ‘bad’ cholesterol? Heart Attacks are not all about Cholesterol but a Family History and an abnormal Cholesterol is bad news. If you want to spend a one-time $105 you can get another blood test for apolipoproteins which will confirm if you have a genetic defect in your Cholesterol metabolism. There are a number of online calculators you can use to assess your future risk of Arteriosclerotic Disease if you have a Positive Family History or abnormal cholesterols or if you smoke or are overweight or sedentary. But remember to also calculate where you will be when you are 40 or 50 years old if nothing is changed.

You might ask why Heart Niagara and The Niagara Healthy Heart Schools Programme are the only organizations that try to bring these facts to the attention of young people before they develop the disease. Well! The answer is that other authorities feel that it upsets young people too much and prevents them from enjoying a ‘full life’. Presumably the ‘full life’ of smoking cigarettes, of eating garbage food and of sitting or lying around all day looking at apps. But no one is denying those pleasures to young people of families at increased risk of heart attack. BUT……………………..

1. The pleasure of smoking cigarettes should be left until you are 75 years old ……then it will be 20 years before they block your arteries.


2. Eat a Mediterranean type diet until you are 65…..then you can indulge in fast food, snacks, sweets, desserts etc. and they will take 30 years to cause a blockage


3. Avoid sitting or lying down for more than 2 hours a day and walk for the equivalent of 1 hour every day until you are 70 but after that you can go to bed all day for another 25 years.

Young people today deserve to know whether their artery walls are ‘teflon’ or ‘velcro’ so that they can make informed choices on avoiding future heart disease. It is not true that knowledge does not lead to change in behavior. It does not for everyone but it does for some. And your family might be one of ‘the some’ who needed to change and did.

Stafford Dobbin, MB, BCh, BaO, FCFP 
Heart Niagara Founder, Medical Director
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