They probably are, to some degree; you might as well face it. And I’m speaking to everybody who is middle-aged or older. And that includes me, and I’m 66.

I heard from a 60 year old man recently who said he went in for a routine EKG and stress test. He was not having any problems or symptoms or complaints. He had no history of heart disease. And he passed the treadmill test with flying colors. They could find nothing wrong in his readings. But afterwards, his heart didn’t slow back down and “recover” as fast as it should have. After 5 minutes of rest, his heart rate was still well over 100. They didn't like that. They took it as a very bad sign, even though there were no other bad indicators.

So, they sent him to a heart hospital for further testing, and what they found out through scans and other tests is that one of his coronary arteries was almost completely blocked. So, he was immediately treated with angioplasty, and a stent was put in.

Putting aside the question of how effective that is, I want to talk about how silent his heart disease was. If that was true of him, don’t you think that it’s likely that there are thousands of others out there who are like him, who have one or more blocked arteries in their heart and don’t know it? And, don’t you think the number could even be in the millions? I do.

I think it’s best to just assume that everybody who is middle-aged or older has some arterial plaque.  And I’m sure that plenty of people who are young have some too. I’m sure there are children who have some as well. Just think of it as a universal affliction to which all humans are heir.

When I was 60, I had a carotid artery ultra-sound done, which measures the thickness of the carotid arteries, which carry blood to the brain. The radiologist told me afterwards, with glee, that I have the arteries of someone 20 years younger, so 40. Well, in that case, I definitely have some plaque because surely the average 40 year old does.

To age without developing some plaque may not even be possible. Or, if it is possible, it may be very rare. And the truth is that the body can tolerate some. I’ve read that an artery can be blocked by 2/3, and yet blood flow can still be considered normal, with little or no reduction in exercise capacity and other things.  

 

My point in telling you all this is to make you realize that heart disease is a disease that you have to fight every day, all the time. Just assume you are heading towards it and have it to some degree already, but your goal is to slow down the progression of it and minimize it as much as possible. Having none is probably not a realistic expectation. But surely, if you do nothing, and just eat the same crap that most people eat, and be as lazy about exercise as most people are, and allow yourself to get fat, as most people do, then you should fully expect to develop heart disease and in a full-blown way. And if you add in some bad habits, such as smoking, then forget about it; it’s time to reduce the deductible on your medical insurance.

 

It’s true that heart disease is a silent disease- until something bad happens. You have to fight it every single day of your life by eating as healthily as you can, and keeping your body fat as low as possible, and exercising diligently and faithfully, and avoiding all bad habits. And if you do all that, you’re still likely to develop it some, but not to where it will ever cause you any recognizable trouble.