Are you at risk of sudden death?
For most of us, death seems a long way off. But our lifestyle today is taking a massive toll on our health. Think about it: We spend most of our days inactive in front of a computer; we are eating foods that are loaded with chemicals and sugars; we suffer from chronic stress that seems to come at us from all sides; and toxins are all around us and in so many of our everyday products.
Because of this, age is no longer the main factor in deciding our fate. In fact, getting old and getting sick are two very different things. As a physician dealing with clients of all ages, I can tell you that I know many people in their seventies that are in great shape due to healthy lifestyle choices, and I know many in their forties – and even thirties – who are at considerable risk for catastrophic health events because of how poorly they are treating their bodies.
What are the risks?
When we talk about the risk of “sudden death,” we are talking mainly about heart health. People are often surprised when we discover considerable plaque buildup in the coronary arteries leading to the heart – which we can do today through a simple, five-minute non-invasive EBCT heart scan.
When one of your coronary arteries becomes restricted or entirely blocked due to this plaque, and blood can no longer get to a section of heart muscle, a heart attack occurs.
The frightening part is that in half of heart attack patients, it is the heart attack itself that was the very first indication of heart disease. In other words, there are often no symptoms of heart disease prior to the heart attack. What’s even scarier is just how low heart attack survival rates are. Although it varies per region, the chance of surviving an out-of-hospital heart attack can be as low as 10%.
What are the causes?
Without a doubt, lifestyle is the main culprit. There is a saying I share with my clients: “Genes load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.” In other words, even if you are genetically prone to heart disease, your chances of developing it are slim if you live well – yet high if you are not taking care of your body.
And if you are not genetically at a disadvantage, poor lifestyle choices alone will likely put you at cardiovascular risk. Evidence of this is made very clear in the UAE, where well over half of the population is obese, 25% are diabetic and another 25% pre-diabetic, 40% have high blood pressure – and the end result of all of this is a population in which heart disease strikes up to 20 years earlier than the global average.
Public Enemy No. 1 is the food we eat. We are consuming far too much sugar and our bodies are simply not meant to process the type of foods that are part and parcel of the Western diet. These foods lead to chronically high blood sugar levels which in turn lead to chronically high insulin levels. If you are living with that, you are living with silent inflammation, a disease that slowly and steadily damages blood vessels throughout the body and puts you at risk for heart disease and many other noncommunicable diseases.
Of course there are other factors, and you are no doubt familiar with all of them. Take a minute to answer the questions below, and for every question you answer “yes” to add the weighting score to your total score at the bottom. If your total score is higher than 10, you are at a greater risk for developing heart disease.
QUESTION WEIGHTING (1-5)
Do you smoke? 3
Do you drink more than three drinks per day? 2
Do you work more than 60 hours a week? 2
Do you suffer from workplace and/or personal stress? 3
Do you exercise very infrequently or not at all? 2
Do you eat a Western diet high in sugars? 5
NOTE YOUR TOTAL SCORE:
What you can do
The first step is to get yourself tested. Whether you live a healthy life or not – or think you do – there is only one way to find out what is going on inside of you. While the traditional annual physical has served us for decades now, more modern programs exist that will give us a better picture of what is going on in our bodies. Tests such as CR-P, fasting insulin, HbA1c, homocysteine, MCG (electrocardiogram), intima media thickness, and the EBCT heart scan, to name a few, will give us the information we need to diagnose your risk and see not only where you are today, but where you will be in the years ahead if you continue with your current lifestyle.
The next step is to find a “health partner” you feel comfortable with. You need to be working with a physician you trust is looking at the underlying cause of modern day illnesses. Prescribing medications is fine when needed, but if we are simply stopping there and not addressing the lifestyle issues that ultimately are the reason we are at risk in the first place, we will continue to get sicker until it is simply too late.
The final and most important step has to do with your role in the entire picture. No longer can you take a passive approach to managing your health. The discipline to make the necessary changes sits entirely with you, and while correcting bad habits is never easy, the alternative can be far more unpleasant.
Graham Simpson, MD is Chief Medical Officer and Founder of Intelligent Health, a preventive medical centre located in Jumeirah. Dubai. He graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand Medical School in Johannesburg, South Africa, and is board certified in Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine. A a founding member of the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA) Dr Simpson is also a licensed homeopath.