Prevention Tip: Reduce Your Chance for Heart Disease

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States of America.  Read on to find out what you can do to prevent this being the reason for your death.  Risk factors are traits or habits that make a person more likely to get heart disease.  Some risk factors—such as age, family history, and gender—are things you cannot change. But the good news is that you can do something about some risk factors:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Overweight
  • Physically inactive 

These risk factors affect the health of the heart. I, also, will teach you ways that you and your family can prevent or control them, such as:

  • Quit smoking
  • Be physically active.
  • Cut down on salt and sodium.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Eat foods that are lower in saturated fat and trans fat.
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, and low-fat milk and milk products.
  • Get your blood pressure, cholesterol & glucose levels checked.
  • Take prescribed medications or supplements as your doctor tells you.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is called the "silent killer" because it often has no symptoms, yet it can cause very serious illness.  When your blood pressure is high, your heart works harder than it should to move blood to all parts of the body.  If not reduced, high blood pressure can lead to stroke (brain attack), heart attack, eye and kidney problems, and death.  Normal blood pressure is a systolic pressure less than 120 mmHg and a diastolic pressure less than 80 mmHg.  Prehypertension is 120-139 mmHg systolic and 80-89 mmHg diastolic.  High blood pressure is 140 or higher mmHg systolic and 90 or higher mmHg diastolic.  Note: systolic pressure is always the top number and diastolic pressure is always the bottom number and is written, 120/80.

Take these steps to prevent heart disease:

  • Check your blood pressure once a year.  Check it more often if you have high blood pressure.
  • Aim for a healthy weight.
  • Be physically active.
  • Choose and prepare foods with less salt and sodium.
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, and low-fat milk products.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
  • If your doctor gives you blood pressure medicine, take it the way the doctor tells you.

High blood cholesterol

Cholesterol in your arteries is like rust in a pipe.  A couple ways we assess cholesterol levels are by measuring the amount of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL) found in the blood.  LDL and HDL are fatty protein structures that carry lipids (fats) such as cholesterol, phospholipids, and triglycerides.  Too much LDL can clog your arteries, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.  HDL carries cholesterol away from your arteries and higher amounts have found to decrease heart disease risk.  Check your total cholesterol.  Total cholesterol of less than 200 mg/dL is desirable.  Whereas, total cholesterol 200-239 mg/dL is considered borderline high and 240 mg/dL or higher is high.  Check your LDL and HDL.  The goal for LDL cholesterol is different for everyone. Your doctor can help you set your LDL goal.  LDL less than 100 mg/dL is desirable and 100-129 mg/dL is near desirable or above desirable.  LDL of 130 – 159 mg/dL is borderline high and 160 mg/dL or higher is considered high LDL.  HDL levels of 60 mg/dL or higher help lower your risk for heart disease. HDL levels below 40 mg/dL are a major risk factor for heart disease.  Check your triglyceride level, a normal triglyceride level is below 150 mg/dL.

Take these steps to prevent heart disease:

  • Get a blood test called a lipid profile at your doctor's office.
  • This test measures all your cholesterol levels (total, LDL, and HDL) and triglycerides.
  • Get your blood cholesterol levels checked every 5 years if you are age 20 or older.
  • Learn what your cholesterol numbers mean.
  • If they are high, ask your doctor how you can lower them.
  • Choose foods that are lower in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
  • Aim for a healthy weight.
  • Be physically active.

Take these other steps to control triglycerides:

  • Limit candy, sweets, regular soda, juice, and other beverages high in sugar.
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol.
  • Smoking raises triglycerides and lowers HDL cholesterol.
  • Excess alcohol also raises triglycerides.

Overweight

Overweight occurs when extra fat is stored in your body. It increases your risk of developing high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.  Check your body mass index (BMI) and waist measure.  BMI of 18.5 – 24.9 is normal.  Whereas, 25-29.9 is overweight and 30 or greater is obese.  A waist measurement of more than 35 inches for a woman and more than 40 inches for a man increases the risk of heart disease.

Take these steps to prevent heart disease:

  • Get your BMI and waist measured every 2 years, or more often if your doctor recommends it.
  • Aim for a healthy weight.  Try not to gain extra weight.
  • If you are overweight, try to lose weight slowly.  Lose 1 to 2 pounds a week.
  • Eat smaller portions and be physically active for at least 60 minutes daily.

Diabetes

When the sugar in the blood is high, your body cannot use the food you eat for energy.  Diabetes is serious. You may not know you have it. It can lead to heart attacks, blindness, amputations, and kidney disease.  Being overweight is a major risk factor for diabetes.

Take these steps to prevent heart disease:

  • Find out if you have diabetes.
  • Get your blood glucose (blood sugar) level checked at least every 3 years, beginning at the age of 45.  You should be tested at a younger age and more often if you are at risk for diabetes.

Physical Inactivity

Being inactive can double your chances of heart disease and take away years from your life.  Adults should do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days, preferably daily.  Some adults need up to 60 minutes of moderate (medium-level) to vigorous (high-level) activity on most days to prevent unhealthy weight gain.  Adults who used to be overweight need 60 to 90 minutes of moderate physical activity every day to avoid re-gaining weight.  Children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days.

Take these steps to prevent heart disease:

  • Stay active. You can build up to 60 minutes of exercise each day by being active for 20 minutes three times a day.
  • Try walking, dancing, or playing soccer.

Smoking

You put your health and your family's health at risk when you smoke.  Cigarette smoking is addictive. It harms your heart and lungs. It can raise your blood pressure and blood cholesterol and those of others around you.

Take these steps to prevent heart disease:

  • Stop smoking now, or cut back gradually.
  • If you can't quit the first time, keep trying.
  • If you don't smoke, don't start.

It can be hard to change old unhealthy habits and learn new healthy ones. As Rev. Jesse Jackson said, "If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, I know I can achieve it."  Take back your health now!  Schedule an appointment today with Dr. Vingelen to get help in taking back your health.