I want to thank the readers for their interest in their health. Although this is only our third article together I’ve heard from many of you in various different ways. While I appreciate all the questions we can only include one or two per article. Keep looking to future articles and you may just find your question selected. For today’s article I’ve picked a reader who is quite concerned about her husband’s health. Here’s her question:

Dear Dr. Malik,

My husband is 52 years old. His father died in his late fifties of a heart attack. I’m concerned about his health and want him to get his cholesterol checked. He just won’t go! Are there regular screenings people with a family history should get?
Sincerely,
Too Young to be a Widow

Dear Too Young to be a Widow,

You’re not alone. Heart health is a major concern in America. In fact, heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, with over half a million deaths per year (according to the National Center for Health Statistics 2010). That alone seems a very good reason to see your primary doctor or cardiologist. Health screenings are relatively painless.
Your husband may want to start by just talking to his doctor. A clear conversation on his history and lifestyle can sometimes be all it takes. Simple measures like cutting back on alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, fatty diet and excess salt can have a large impact. Everyone above the age of 18 should have their blood pressure checked and this is usually done at every clinic visit. Men in their late thirties and women in their late forties should also get their cholesterol numbers checked. These recommendations are based on some solid evidence compiled by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
A good conversation with your doctor will help you to determine your risk for heart disease down the road. While your husband’s father had an unfortunate event, this doesn’t mean that your husband is doomed to the same fate. In fact, there are many medications in use nowadays that can significantly lower the risk of a heart attack. The rate of death due to heart diseases is about half today of what it used to be in the 1980’s. There’s a lot of hope.
Want a tip for getting your husband to the doctor? I recently had a clever wife who scheduled an appointment for herself and had her husband join her for the visit. She had called ahead, however, to let the office know that he would be seeing the doctor as well. This way it was a combined visit and she was able to bring up the topic in his presence without surprising the doctor (some doctors enjoy surprises; I typically don’t, unless they happen to be baked goods). She managed to be very loving and her husband ultimately appreciated her company and support. This approach won’t work for everyone but clear lines of communication are necessary in a relationship. A loving reminder that a spouse’s health always directly impacts the other can sometimes help.
Thanks for writing in. I look forward to hearing from the rest of you.
Got questions for yourself or a loved one? You too can be featured in the next article. Write in to TheHealthyWay@NCHSI.org or write in to:
North Country Hospital, ATTN: The Healthy Way, 189 Prouty Drive, Newport, VT 05855.