Health Matters: Know Your Heart Healthy Numbers

Health Matters: Know Your Numbers:
Keeping Your Heart Healthy this February
By Dr. Wes Holiday

Roses are red. Violets are blue. February isn’t only for Valentine’s Day; it’s Heart Health Month too. Heart Month is recognized nationally every February to remind Americans to focus on their hearts and encourage them to take initiative with their own health and wellness.

According to the most recent study from the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, remains the leading global cause of death, causing more than 17.6 million deaths each year. While heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, it is often preventable. Taking action to prioritize your health and understand the symptoms of poor heart health can help you save your heart.

Knowing your numbers is one great way to be proactive in keeping your heart healthy. In fact, by regularly checking your numbers and keeping your family history in mind, you can know whether your heart is at an increased risk for heart disease.

So, what does it mean to know your numbers? For starters, keeping tabs on your blood pressure can help you know whether you’re keeping your heart healthy. Blood pressure is tracked by the force of blood against your arteries when your heart is beating or at rest. Ideally, your numbers should be less than 130/80 mm Hg to avoid hypertension (high blood pressure).

Tracking your blood pressure can indicate whether you are at risk for heart health issues and cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes, heart attacks or even heart failure. If you are at risk, this knowledge can help you take steps to prevent any of these ailments.

In addition, knowing your cholesterol levels, which includes LDL (bad cholesterol), HDL (good cholesterol) and Triglyceride (fat) levels, is key. In particular, the higher your LDL and Triglyceride levels are, the more likely you are to be at risk for a heart attack or stroke.

This is because these numbers indicate the possibility of your artery walls narrowing due to fatty build up. In contrast, healthy HDL levels, or the ‘good’ cholesterol, may protect against stroke and heart attacks. To check your levels, your primary care physician will order a blood test to measure the amount of each type of cholesterol in your blood.

Blood sugar and your body mass index (BMI) are two additional numbers to know to ensure you are keeping your heart healthy. Blood sugar is the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Too much glucose in your blood can cause pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes, which are conditions that can lead to heart disease. Your BMI is dependent on your age, weight, sex and height, making it important to get yearly health screenings to make sure you are at a healthy weight. Failing to manage your BMI or weight can lead to an increased risk of obesity, which can, in turn, lead to an increased risk of heart disease or other cardiovascular issues.

If you are concerned about your heart health or are unsure of your numbers, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss your risk. Don’t let candy hearts be the only hearts you focus on this month. Prioritize your cardiac health by getting your numbers checked. Knowing what your numbers mean is a crucial step towards maintaining a healthy heart and preventing cardiovascular disease.

* Wes J. Holiday, DO, is a board-certified interventional cardiologist for Mercy Health – Lorain. He graduated from the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed his internship at Beaumont Hospital Farmington Hills. He completed his residency at Beaumont Hospital and two fellowships – one at Beaumont Hospital in 2010 and one at St. John Hospital in 2011.

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