Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. Keeping your heart in tip-top shape involves several strategies, including eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and keeping your heart numbers within healthy ranges.
It is important to see your healthcare provider regularly and discuss how often you should have these tests, as well as what your goal numbers should be. Always follow your provider’s recommendations regarding how to get and keep your numbers within a healthy range.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a major risk factor for stroke, heart and kidney disease. It usually has no symptoms. A normal blood pressure is below 120 mm Hg and below 80 mm Hg. Elevated numbers may indicate pre-hypertension or hypertension. Talk with your healthcare provider as to how often you should have your blood pressure checked. At lmh.org/wellness, you can learn more about hypertension and other issues related to heart disease.
Blood sugar (glucose)
Having an elevated fasting blood sugar may indicate pre-diabetes or diabetes. Diabetes is also a risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. The American Diabetes Association (diabetes.org) recommends that a fasting blood sugar should be less than 100 mg/dl. A fasting blood sugar of 100-125 mg/dl may indicate pre-diabetes and a fasting blood sugar of 126 mg/dl or above may indicate diabetes. The LMH Diabetes Education Center has certified diabetes educators to help educate those with diabetes on successful management of their disease. A physician referral is required.
Over time, plaque can form and cause blockages in arteries and veins when there is elevated “bad” cholesterol (low density lipoprotein or LDL) or triglycerides in the blood. This can lead to either a heart attack or stroke (brain attack). High cholesterol usually has no symptoms; a blood test is the only way to know your levels. The American Heart Association (heart.org) recommends that healthy adults with no heart disease risk factors have their cholesterol levels checked at least every 4-6 years. Talk with your healthcare provider as to how often you should have a fasting lipid (cholesterol) profile. Frequency of testing usually depends on age, family history and personal risk factors.
A full lipid profile consists of total cholesterol. A score is calculated using the following equation: HDL + LDL + 20 percent of triglyceride level. A total cholesterol score of less than 200 mg/dl is considered desirable while less than 180 mg/dl is considered optimal.
Another component of the lipid profile is LDL. If you are at very high risk for a heart attack, your healthcare provider may recommend keeping your LDL less than 70 mg/dl. For those with heart disease or diabetes, a target of less than 100 mg/dl may be suggested. A near to or above optimal level is 100-129 mg/dl.
Good cholesterol is also known as HDL (high density lipoprotein). Having a high level of HDL may lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. For men, an acceptable level is greater than 40 mg/dl and for women greater than 50 mg/dl. For both genders, an HDL level of greater than 60 mg/dl is the most optimal. Lastly, a desirable triglyceride level is less than 150 mg/dl.
Learn some of your numbers by attending the LMH Healthy Hearts Fair on Feb. 21. Blood work is 7:30-10 am, while screenings and exhibits are 8-10:30 am. This annual event is focused on cardiovascular disease and its prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Low-cost full lipid (cholesterol) profile screening is available for $20 if registered by Feb. 13; $25 after that date or at the door. To enroll in advance for the cholesterol blood work and the discounted price, watch for enrollment forms in the Journal-World or call the LMH Lab at (785) 505-6179 to request a registration form from a “health fair specialist.”
There also will be free health screenings and information about heart disease from LMH departments, affiliated physician practices, plus LMH community partners. The only fee is for the lipid profile; no fee or registration necessary to attend the other screenings and exhibits.
Aynsley Anderson, RN, MA is Community Education Coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.