Start practicing heart-healthy living
In our annual celebration of Heart Month, it's appropriate to look at healthy heart living.
There are many conditions that affect the heart. Of course, heart attacks, arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythm), cardiomyopathy (issues with the heart muscle), and congenital heart defects (heart conditions you are born with) are directly related to the health of our hearts. But did you also know that many other conditions including, but not limited to, cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure, can lead to heart disease, heart attack, or stroke? And now, COVID seems to have varied effects on many individuals.
There are factors you can control such as diet, exercise, smoking, and alcohol consumption that are related to our heart health. Age, hereditary, and gender are things we cannot control that are also related to our cardiovascular status.
Cholesterol is a “waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver and other cells.” It is found in certain foods such as dairy products, eggs, and meats. You need some cholesterol to function properly as it helps to support cell walls, produce hormones, and produce bile that assists in digesting fat. There is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Lean fats such as avocados and nuts tend to be good cholesterol, while other fats like red meat, and fried foods tend to be bad cholesterol. However, you only need a limited amount of either type. When you have too much, plaque—a thick, hard substance---forms in your arteries which can impede blood flow leading to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). This itself can lead heart disease including high blood pressure, angina (chest pain), and even heart attacks.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition that we typically think of when we mention challenges with glucose levels (sugar) and insulin. Adults with type 2 diabetes are at least 65 per cent more likely to die from some form of heart disease or stroke.
High blood pressure is a condition that measures pressure your blood puts against the walls of your arteries when your heart is pumping compared to the pressure against the walls of your arteries when your heart is relaxed. When the numbers are too high, it can lead to heart related issues, and stroke. High blood pressure results from plaque build-up, salt intake, smoking, stress, and more.
Since COVID is such a new condition that we are learning about daily, review the evidence-based information available from the American Heart Association (heart.org/en/coronavirus).
Total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dL. LDL (Bad) cholesterol should be less than 100 mg/dL while HDL (Good) cholesterol should be more than 50 mg/dL. If you are unsure of your numbers, consult your doctor!!
Diabetes can be measured by taking your fasting blood levels first things in the morning. Your reading should be less than 100 mg/dL. If you are consistently higher than 100mg/dL, check with your doctor.
Blood pressure should be read as the systolic pressure (heart contracting) over the diastolic pressure (heart at rest). That means it should be some number less than 120 over some number less than 80. Anything over 120/80 needs to be discussed with your physician.
It is important to be educated about your health. It is always a great idea to have a heart screening to understand your current status, and to find things about which you should be concerned early before it is too late to address them. King’s Daughters Medical Center in Brookhaven offers a $100 Healthy Heart Screening the requires no physician referral. The Healthy Heart Screening is a combination of several on site-tests including a HeartSaver CT Scan, Lipid Panel, Electrocardiogram, Assessments for Peripheral Vascular and Stroke Rise, feedback on Blood pressure, Body Composition along with Nutrition Counseling. To schedule an appointment, simply call 601-835-9133.
For more information, be sure to visit the American Heart Association at www.heart.org.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Stephanie Duguid is Dean of Academic Instruction at Co-Lin. She is also an athletic trainer and nutrition specialist and has been teaching courses related to those two areas as well as practicing what she preaches for more than twenty years.