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Let’s face it. There are a number of excuses that we may use to avoid seeing our doctors on a regular basis—we’re too young and healthy to need a doctor, too scared that something might actually be wrong with us, or we’re just too busy. But whatever the excuse, health is one aspect that cannot be ignored.

With heart disease remaining the number one killer of men and women nationwide, we should always have an accurate picture of our heart health. And to learn about our cardiovascular health, we must know about any risk factors that we might have, such as having high cholesterol, hypertension, or diabetes or being overweight or obese. The problem is, however, that not all of these risk factors are plain to see. In fact, blood pressure and high cholesterol can have virtually no symptoms, yet can cause permanent damage to the arteries. They can also cause heart attack and stroke—all without you ever knowing that you had these risk factors

While it’s a scary thought, the good news is that we can take control of our heart health in many ways. By having regular check-ups, primary care doctors can capture a picture of our health over time, helping them notice any changes that might require further attention. They will also check for the traditional cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, and can treat or refer you to a cardiologist when necessary. By addressing any risk factors that you may have, you can work with your doctor to lower risk of heart attack or stroke by up to 30 percent. And that advantage is something we should never put off until later.

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