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For Heart Health, Focus on Risk Factors

For Heart Health, Focus on Risk Factors

Heart failure is also a form of heart disease. Heart failure implies that your heart suddenly stops beating, but that’s not the case — it refers to the diminished capacity of a damaged ticker.

Heart failure often leaves you feeling exhausted or breathless, because your heart is having trouble delivering enough blood — and the oxygen in that blood — to every part of your body.­

Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) is also considered a form of heart disease. A diseased heart may begin to flutter or race and, in extreme cases, can prevent blood from properly moving through the heart’s chambers.

One way doctors predict your likelihood of getting these conditions is through a little equation called the Framingham formula, which takes a bunch of risk factors and calculates how likely you are to get coronary heart disease.

The problem is that the Framingham formula is pretty complex. So to make it easy for you, we’re going to focus on five risk factors in this article.

First, we’ll talk about the factor we all like to blame when we look at our oversized feet or our untamed eyebrows: genetics.

Lifestyle

Unlike other causes of heart disease such as genetics, gender or age, you can help prevent one major cause of heart disease — your lifestyle.

If you smoke, try your hardest to quit. Smoking increases blood pressure and damages your heart’s tissues.

Obesity is a big contributor to heart disease, so eat a low-fat diet and get exercise as often as you can, ideally for a half-hour at least four times a week.

Drink like Ben Franklin’s advice, but not like Ben Franklin’s habits — in moderation. A daily serving of alcohol may in fact improve your heart’s health

Age

On average, your heart will beat up to 3.3 billion times before its final lub-dub [source: Roizen]. Any way you slice it, a workload that heavy causes plenty of wear and tear.

As we age, not only do we have trouble finding our reading glasses, but our arteries harden, the ­walls of our hearts get thicker, and overall heart function decreases.

In addition to the normal effects of aging, other contributing factors like high blood pressure and lack of exercise have been in play all those years, taking their tolls as well.

All of this adds up to a pretty hefty statistic — people age 65 and older make up 83 percent of all heart disease deaths

Diabetes

Diabetes is an inability to self-regulate blood-glucose levels. It’s also a contributing cause of heart disease. Diabetics are twice as likely as nondiabetics to suffer from heart disease [source: American Diabetes Association]. Worse still, they’re five times more likely to have heart attacks

Diabetes affects many parts of the body, especially the kidneys. As systems lose full function, the heart is forced to work harder and carry even more of a load.

The inner lining of the artery is already nicked up by products in the bloodstream such as sugars and lipids, and the excess sugars in a diabetic’s blood cause even greater wear and tear. It doesn’t help when the sugary blood is being sent through the body with greater force from high blood pressure, which diabetics are also more likely to have.

Gender

When it comes to the battle of the sexes, victory favors women through simple attrition. Men are, on average, 66 years old when they have thei­r first heart attack, and nearly 50 percent of men who have a heart attack by the age of 65 will die by the time they’re 73 .

More men in America die from heart disease than from any other single cause, and it was responsible for 28 percent of all American men’s deaths in 2003

Genetics

Genetics is a big factor in determining your likelihood of future heart disease. When it comes to the family tree, you’re most at risk if a direct rel­ative (a parent or sibling) has had a heart attack.

If your father or brother has had one before the age of 45 — or if your mother or sister has had one before the age of 55 — you should be especially concerned.

A history of heart disease in your extended family is a factor as well.

Your genes may make you more susceptible to heart disease, but they can also make you more prone to contributing factors such as obesity, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

African-Americans tend to have higher blood pressure, which contributes to heart disease.

In fact, studies have shown that African-Americans are twice as likely to die of heart disease than Caucasians . Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, certain Asian ethnicities and Hispanics are also at higher risk.

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Beyond the Brain

Beyond the Brain

The ancient Egyptians thought so little of brain matter they made a practice of scooping it out through the nose of a dead leader before packing the skull with cloth before burial.

They believed consciousness resided in the heart, a view shared by Aristotle and a legacy of medieval thinkers.

Even when consensus for the locus of thought moved northward into the head, it was not the brain that was believed to be the sine qua non, but the empty spaces within it, called ventricles, where ephemeral spirits swirled about.

As late as 1662, philosopher Henry More scoffed that the brain showed “no more capacity for thought than a cake of suet, or a bowl of curds.”

Around the same time, French philosopher René Descartes codified the separation of conscious thought from the physical flesh of the brain.

Cartesian “dualism” exerted a powerful influence over Western science for centuries, and while dismissed by most neuroscientists today, still feeds the popular belief in mind as a magical, transcendent quality.

A contemporary of Descartes named Thomas Willis—often referred to as the father of neurology—was the first to suggest that not only was the brain itself the locus of the mind, but that different parts of the brain give rise to specific cognitive functions.

Early 19th-century phrenologists pushed this notion in a quaint direction, proposing that personality proclivities could be deduced by feeling the bumps on a person’s skull, which were caused by the brain “pushing out” in places where it was particularly well developed.

Plaster casts of the heads of executed criminals were examined and compared to a reference head to determine whether any particular protuberances could be reliably associated with criminal behavior.

Though absurdly unscientific even for its time, phrenology was remarkably prescient—up to a point. In the past decade especially, advanced technologies for capturing a snapshot of the brain in action have confirmed that discrete functions occur in specific locations.

The neural “address” where you remember a phone number, for instance, is different from the one where you remember a face, and recalling a famous face involves different circuits than remembering your best friend’s.

Yet it is increasingly clear that cognitive functions cannot be pinned to spots on the brain like towns on a map.

A given mental task may involve a complicated web of circuits, which interact in varying degrees with others throughout the brain—not like the parts in a machine, but like the instruments in a symphony orchestra combining their tenor, volume, and resonance to create a particular musical effect.

Lotus Elise

There’s a good word that sums up the Elise, and that word is ‘connected’. In a world where cars are more and more divorced from both driver and road, the lightweight Elise is a sportscar that still delivers the best seat-of-the-pants feel this side of a Caterham.

Comfort
Better than before, in that it now won’t actually cripple and deafen you in the first 30 miles. Just getting into the thing is a hilarious business, and once inside the ergonomics are terrible – the Elise is very focussed, so heaters and radios are added in later. Much easier entry and egress with the roof off, but it’s a pain to replace quickly if there’s a snap rain shower.

Performance
The Elise isn’t actually that shattering when it comes to out-and-out shove – it’s more to do with the purity of the driving experience. That said, it’s not slow; nowadays the Elise is powered by a Toyota 1.8 with variable valve timing that produces 134bhp in basic 1.8 S form, 189bhp as a 1.8R and 217bhp in the supercharged variant. That gives 0-62mph times that drop in a similar order; 5.8, 5.2 and 4.4, with top speeds that rise accordingly; 127mph, 147mph and 150mph.

Cool
The Elise manages to walk the fine tightrope between enthusiast’s machine and look-at-me poseur mobile, with probably a little more of the former. So it’s cool, but not as cool as an Exige.

Quality
Modern Elises feel like they could be taken to a track and abused without falling to bits, but then there’s not that much inside to break. Don’t be worried if the aluminium tub creaks and rattles a bit – there’s little sound deadening and most of the interior is bare metal. The pop-in-pop-out roof bars sometimes have dodgy seals too – but that’s not a big worry.

Handling
The Elise makes even a trip to the shops an adventure, with steering so feelsome it’s like running the palm of your hand down the tarmac itself. You can feel road cambers that you won’t have a clue about from the helm of any sports saloon, and when the car starts to reach the limits of its considerable grip, your bum will telegraph the situation to you well in advance.

Practicality
If there was a sliding scale of practicality with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best, the Elise would be somewhere around -2 with the Lamborghini Diablo SV and the TukTuk motor tricycle. There is a boot behind the engine, but it tends to cook whatever is stored there. Squashy bags are OK, but space everywhere else is at a premium. And don’t expect to arrive and be able to emerge gracefully – unless you’re 5ft tall, the Elise will strip your ego bare.

Running costs
Not a bad choice if you want a tidy driving experience and you still want to be able to use your face and heart afterwards. The engines are clean and that means 27-percent company car tax – fancy that – though insurance is high at group 20 all round. Economy is also pretty reasonable given the Elise’s performance potential – the 1.8R will get 32.1mpg and the 1.8 an even better 34mpg.