Be Well Blog

What is Heart Disease?

February is Heart Month, a time where we should all learn about the types, symptoms, and health implications that may lead to heart disease.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States.  One person dies every 37 seconds from cardiovascular disease.  About 647,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing 365,914 people in 2017. About 18.2 million adults age 20 and older have Coronary Artery Disease.  Every year, about 805,000 Americans have a heart attack and a heart attack happens every 40 seconds.

Americans at Risk for Heart Disease

As plaque builds up in the arteries of a person with heart disease, the inside of the arteries begins to narrow, which lessens or blocks the flow of blood. Plaque can also rupture (break open). When it does, a blood clot can form on the plaque, blocking the flow of blood. High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors.
Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put you at a higher risk for heart disease, including:
  • Diabetes
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excessive alcohol use

Check Your Blood Pressure

Having your blood pressure measured is one of the easiest ways to indicate a heart problem.  You can have your blood pressure measured at your primary care office, CVS, Walgreens, or you can even buy your own blood pressure cuff!
Your blood pressure is measured with a systolic number, which measures your atrium contraction and a diastolic number, which measures your ventricle contraction.  The systolic number is the top (or first) number and your diastolic number is the bottom (or second) number. Below are blood pressure categories: 
Normal: Systolic number is less than 120 and your diastolic number is less than 80
Elevated: Systolic number is between 120-129 and your diastolic number is less than 80
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension Stage 1): Systolic number is between 130-139 or your diastolic number is between 80-89
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension Stage 2):  Systolic number is greater than 140 or your diastolic number is greater than 90
Hypertensive Crisis: Systolic number is higher than 180 and/or diastolic number is higher than 120
Health threats from high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart failure, and even a heart attack. If you find that you have high blood pressure, there are several ways to bring your blood pressure down.  Below are ways that your doctor may recommend: 
  • Eat a healthier diet
  • Reduce sodium intake
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you consume
  • Quit smoking
  • Cut back on caffeine 
  • Exercise regularly
In some instances, your doctor may prescribe an anti-hypertensive like Metoprolol or Amlodipine.

Check your Cholesterol Levels

Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. With high cholesterol, you can develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels which may make it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. High cholesterol can also increase your risk of heart disease. 
Good cholesterol is known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL). It removes cholesterol from the bloodstream. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the “bad” cholesterol. You can measure your cholesterol levels by a simple blood test. 
Total cholesterol level – less than 200 is best, but it depends on your HDL and LDL levels
LDL cholesterol levels – less than 130 is best, but this depends on your risk for heart disease
HDL cholesterol levels – 60 or higher reduces your risk for heart disease

Happy Heart Beat, Happy Life

We urge you today to get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels measured.  These are two easy tests that can be done and serves as a good indicator to find out if you are at risk of heart disease.