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Preventing heart disease when family history stacks the deck

January 28, 2015
Kat Duke

Kat Duke of Raleigh lost her entire family to heart disease: her mother, her father, her brother, and her half-sister. She was determined not to succumb to the same fate.

Proactively, the 64-year-old called Duke Cardiology of Raleigh, based on the Duke (no relation) reputation, she said. Four years later, she considers it one of the best things she’s done for her health. Radha Kachhy, MD, became what Duke calls her “partner in health.”

“She treats me as an individual,” Duke says. “She talks to me about my life and how I’m feeling. I never feel rushed, and I love that.” For example, Duke had an appointment with Kachhy shortly after she was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. “We talked about it at length,” she said. “She is interested in all aspects of my health.”

Together, Kachhy and Duke started down a path to better heart health, including a focus on Duke’s cholesterol and blood pressure. She took medications to control both for a while, and then she was able to come off them. “We monitor now on a routine basis,” Duke said. “I’ll see her again in another month, and I expect no news. No news is good news.”

Because of Duke’s family history, her worries about her own heart health were   justified. But family history is only one factor to consider, Kachhy said. “Women in their postmenopausal years have new health challenges,” she says. “This is the time to be aware of things like osteoarthritis, preventing diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.”

Due in part to changes in hormone levels at this age, a woman’s cholesterol and blood pressure can inch up, Kachhy said. “If you see your doctor only once a year for your annual exam, you may not notice cholesterol and blood pressure drifting up until they are much higher.”

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