Your heart: It’s the engine that helps your body function and allows you to enjoy all life has to offer — from favorite activities to relationships with friends and family members. This February, celebrate this amazing organ during National Heart Month.
Heart disease affects approximately 84 million Americans and is the number one cause of death for men and women every year. Take control of your heart health by learning about four key numbers — and what you can do to keep them where they need to be.
1. Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart failure and stroke. Also called hypertension, high blood pressure can cause blockages in the arteries, reducing the flow of oxygen to the heart and making it work harder.
The American Heart Association released new guidelines for blood pressure and treatment.
- Normal: Under 120/80
- Elevated: 120-129/80
- Stage 1 Hypertension: 130-139/80-89
- Stage 2 Hypertension: Higher than 140/90
Your doctor will help you understand what these new targets mean for you and if any treatment is necessary. Treatment may include a heart-healthy diet, more physical activity or medication to help control your blood pressure.
Cholesterol is a naturally occurring substance that is found in the body and produced in the liver and other cells. It can also come from eating foods that are high in fat. High levels of cholesterol can cause blockages of the arteries, potentially leading to a heart attack.
A desirable total cholesterol level is less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). An annual blood test can monitor your levels and help your doctor make recommendations tailored to your health.
3. Blood Sugar
High blood sugar levels may indicate that you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, two conditions that can greatly increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association considers diabetes to be one of the major controllable risk factors for heart disease.
A normal blood sugar level after fasting is 100 mg/dL.
4. Body Mass Index (BMI)
Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor in many life-threatening diseases, including diabetes, cancer, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome and heart disease. Your BMI is a calculation based on your height and weight and can indicate whether you are overweight or obese.
People are considered overweight starting at a BMI of 25 and obese at 30 or higher.
Fifteen minutes is all it takes to save a life. That’s how long it takes to get a simple health screening that gives you the information you need to live a heart healthy life. Talk to your primary care provider about what preventive measures or screenings are right for you.
Your doctor can also assess your heart health at your annual physical, an important part of managing your whole health. It’s just one of many reasons you should see a doctor in times of both health and wellness.