Men and Health: It’s a guy thing provided the following questions to Dr. Schnur:

1. When do you need to start asking your doctor for heart check-ups? Normally in your 30s, but sooner if you have a family history of coronary disease or if you have risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, etc. In addition, if you have new symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath and passing out.

2. Can your primary care physician determine potential heart problems, or must you see a cardiologist? Your primary care physician should be able to provide you with the initial screening and then refer you to a specialist if the condition warrants it.

3. When does heart disease first start to appear? It can appear at any age, but normally it appears in the middle 30s for men and middle 40s for women. The worse the genetics and risk factors, the earlier it can appear.

4. Should guys under 50 worry? Or can heart disease strike at a much younger age? Heart disease can strike at a much earlier age, depending on risk factors.

5. Explain high blood pressure. Are there symptoms? Or can you have dangerously high blood pressure and not even know it? Hypertension is defined as blood pressure over 140/90, but now we believe that blood pressure consistently over 130/80 carries additional risks as well. Normally, mild to moderate high blood pressure will not cause symptoms, but marked hypertension and even mild to moderate blood pressure can cause headaches, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, etc.

6. How serious is high cholesterol? Very serious and lead to heart attacks, strokes and loss of life.

7. Heavy drinking and smoking. How bad are these habits? Heavy drinking and cigarette smoking have a myriad of harmful effects. Excessive alcohol consumption has detrimental neurologic, cardiac and liver side effects. It negatively affects virtually every organ system in the body. As far as cigarette smoking, the same applies, as well as an increase in the incidence of heart attacks and lung cancer.

8. Must you diet AND exercise to help your heart? You must diet and exercise to help your heart. Refer to my book “The Reality Diet.”

9. How beneficial is a brisk, 30-minute daily walk? A brisk walk will help to condition your heart, lower your risk factors such as obesity and cholesterol and will improve your mental status.

10. Is it important to add upper body training to help the heart? Light resistance exercise helps to maintain muscle mass, which helps to burn calories and maintain ideal body weight with the least amount of excess fat.

11. What is the best advice for baby boomer guys? Best advice is to eat healthy, follow the recommendations of “The Reality Diet,” and exercise 30 to 45 minutes every day.

If you have ideas for future “Ask the Specialist” features, please e-mail me at scottbkeith@yahoo.com