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Even young, slim women can be at risk for heart disease

Kristin Klingshirn, 34, a co-host on The Bert Show, recognized Women’s Heart Awareness Month by participating in a women’s heart screening at Piedmont Heart Institute. While Klingshirn is young and looks healthy and fit, she was surprised to learn she had three (and possibly four) significant risk factors for heart disease. This video follows her heart screening appointment and follow-up.

Family history

Several heart disease risk factors run in Klingshirn’s family.

“My mother, maternal grandmother and brother all have high cholesterol,” she says. “My father has diabetes and my maternal grandfather passed away from a heart attack.”

Women’s heart screening tests

Piedmont Heart performed the following tests for immediate results:

•      Neck and waist circumference measurements

•      Cholesterol check (finger prick blood test)

•      Ankle-brachial index (ABI) to check for artery blockages in the legs

Then, a lab technician drew blood for additional tests.

Follow-up with a cardiologist

The next week, Klingshirn met with Jyoti Sharma, M.D., a cardiologist at Piedmont Heart, to review the following test results:

  • C-reactive protein (CRP), a blood test to detect coronary inflammation. Her results were good: 0.02, which is well below the desired 1.0 or less.
  • Lipoprotein(a), a blood test to check for a specific type of bad cholesterol. Her value was 30.8, which is in the upper limits of “normal,” and in some cases, higher than normal.
  • Reynolds Risk Score, a test designed to predict future heart attack or stroke risk. Her score? Just 1 percent.
  • Her Body Mass Index (BMI) is 20.59, which is in the healthy, normal range.

How her results stack up against heart disease risk factors:

  • Obesity: With a BMI of 20.59, Klingshirn is not obese.
  • Diet: She admits she has a sweet tooth and doesn’t watch what she eats.
  • Cholesterol: Her cholesterol is 220, which is high. Dr. Sharma says she should aim for a score of less than 200.
  • Triglycerides: With a score of 150, her triglycerides are also too high, especially for a woman her age, says Dr. Sharma.
  • Physical activity: Klingshirn admits she gets little to no exercise, thanks in part to a lack of sleep.

Heart disease risk factors

Dr. Sharma’s message to Klingshirn:

“You’re really young, you’re gorgeous, you look healthy, and a lot of people would think you fall right into that ideal of cardiovascular health,” says Dr. Sharma. “Instead, what we’ve found is that you’ve got three – maybe four – risk factors for cardiovascular disease. That is a lot of risk factors.”

Klingshirn isn’t alone. 

“When we say 90 percent of women have at least one risk factor for heart disease, this is what we’re talking about,” she says.

While she knew she didn’t get much exercise and ate a poor diet, Klingshirn was surprised by the results.

“It was a little shocking to hear about how many risk factors I had – I did not see that coming,” says Klingshirn.

What are your heart disease risk factors? It’s easy to find out. Click here to schedule a screening.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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