When discussing heart health, it is always suggested that people "know their numbers". What exactly does this mean?
Research has repeatedly shown that both high blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol are contributing factors to heart disease. Yet millions of people have no clue as to what their "numbers" are and whether or not they fit into the recommended guidelines. High blood pressure isn't called "the silent killer" for nothing. Many people are unaware they have high blood pressure because, typically, there are no symptoms. All the more reason to have periodic screenings to check your numbers and know if you are at risk for heart disease, oftentimes a disease with preventable risk factors.
Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of arteries and veins throughout the body. The top number, systolic pressure, measures the pressure when the heart is beating and forcing the blood into the arteries. The lower number, diastolic pressure, occurs when the heart is at rest or in between beats. When the pressure is too high, your organs and blood vessels can be damaged and your risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure is increased. Although it is fairly common for blood pressure to increase with aging, it is still recommended that blood pressure be kept below l20/80. This is considered normal blood pressure. Prehypertension is a pressure of 120/80-139/89 and high blood pressure is 140/90 or above. Where do you fit?
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance that is an essential component of a healthy body. However, too much cholesterol in your blood can cause it to build up in the walls of the arteries causing hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) which in turn can lead to blockage or heart disease. Similar to high blood pressure, high cholesterol itself does not cause symptoms so many people are not aware they are at risk. It is recommended that the total cholesterol be less than 200 mg/dl and the LDL (the bad stuff) be below 130. Triglycerides should be below 150 while the HDL (the good stuff) should be above 40 for men and 50 for women. Where do you fit?
Heart disease is the #1 killer in the United States and a major cause of disability. The entire month of February is designated as American Heart Month. Why not use this as incentive to learn what your numbers are and see where you fit?
Both blood pressure and cholesterol screenings are available at the North Shore Health Department. A blood pressure screen is free of charge and there is a $25.00 fee for a cholesterol screen that includes a complete lipid profile and a glucose reading. Please call 371-2980 to schedule an appointment or see your doctor.
You can learn more about high blood pressure and cholesterol at these websites: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=2112