February is Heart Health Month and there is much in the news about taking care of your ticker. Risk factors like cholesterol, blood pressure and inflammation. Diseases like diabetes. Solutions like fish oils.
It can all be a little overwhelming. Should you worry? What do you need to do? Take? Eat?
The starting point is to determine your risk–if you can find the weak spots in your biology, your lifestyle and your genetics, you can make solid informed choices about where to focus your energy.
Last summer we wrote about assessing your risk using the Framingham Risk Calculator. If you know your cholesterol and blood pressure numbers, you can answer a few quick questions and get an idea of your 10-year risk of general cardiovascular disease.
As you can guess, though, it takes more than just a couple of numbers to get a good picture of your risk. In addition to all the lifestyle factors that we can subjectively discuss, we have a great new test that helps answer those questions, and more. It’s called a fatty acid profile, and we use it to assess the levels of “good” and “bad” fatty acids in your body.
A Fatty Acid Primer: Why They Matter
In a broad sense, this simple blood test gives us a look at levels of:
- Essential Fatty Acids. Your body can’t make these necessary wonders–you have to get them from your diet. Omega 3’s come from places like fish and flax, while Omega 6’s come from places like grain and grain-fed animals. The real secret here is balance. Too much Omega 6 (common in our culture) relative to Omega 3 and you increase your risk.
- Mono-unsaturated fatty acids. These are the “good” cooking oils, like olive, canola or safflower oils.
- Saturated fatty acids. These come from meat, dairy, cocoa butter and palm oil–they’re usually solid a room temperature. Some of them have been linked to heart disease.
- Trans-fatty acids. These are the bad guys. They’ve been modified to make things last longer on shelves, and they’re trouble.
If all this fat-talk makes your head spin, it’s okay. Here’s what you need to know.
- These things matter. Research shows these acids and their ratios are linked to everything from heart attack risk and depression, to diabetes and cancer.
- The test can help us help you. The test tells us the levels of your fatty acids, how they’re balanced relative to each other, and how you compare to the population norms. That helps us know where to focus lifestyle change, what supplements to recommend and in what dosages, and what we should be keeping an eye on over time to keep you well.
All told, the test is a good indicator of heart health and whether your dietary fats are protecting you or harming you. It’s fast and easy–just a simple blood test!
To arrange a test, call the clinic at 705-444-5331, or email anytime.