By KIMBERLY STRICKLAND | D.O., Family Medicine
We all know our phone number and PIN number. But knowing your heart health numbers can literally save your life – especially since heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States.
In addition to eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and stopping smoking, the American Heart Association recommends the following tests throughout your life to keep your heart health in check.
Blood pressure is one of the most important screenings because high blood pressure has no symptoms; it can’t be detected without being measured. High blood pressure greatly increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.
If your blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg, have it checked at least once every two years, starting at age 20. If your blood pressure is higher, your doctor may want to check it more often. High blood pressure can be controlled through medication or lifestyle changes, such as losing extra weight, getting regular exercise, and/or reducing your sodium intake.
Starting at age 20, you should have a fasting lipoprotein profile taken every five years. This blood test measures total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides. You may need to be tested more frequently if:
• Your total cholesterol or HDL cholesterol levels are not at optimal levels.
• You have other cardiovascular risk factors.
• You’re a man over age 45.
• You’re a woman over age 50.
Your cholesterol and triglycerides can also be controlled through lifestyle changes or medication.
During every healthcare visit beginning at age 20, your doctor should weigh you to calculate your body mass index and measure your waist circumference to see if you’re at a healthy weight. About two of every three adults are overweight or obese, which increases blood pressure, triglycerides and total and LDL cholesterol. These risk factors can induce diabetes, as well as increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Starting at age 45, you should have your blood glucose level checked at least every three years. High blood glucose levels put you at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which often leads to heart disease and stroke. If you’re overweight and you have at least one additional cardiovascular risk factor, your doctor may recommend a blood glucose test even if you’re not yet 45.
Take control of your health by having these simple tests and monitoring your heart health numbers throughout your lifetime. Also, if you smoke, be sure to tell your doctor and discuss methods for quitting, as well as how to improve your diet and exercise habits. If you smoke, your doctor can suggest approaches to help quit. If there’s room for improvement in your diet and daily physical activity levels, your doctor can provide helpful suggestions.
Remember, your health is in your hands. Only you, with the assistance of your doctor, can monitor it and keep lifestyle risk factors at bay. Weatherford Regional Medical Center can help. Women 21 and up are invited to join our Healthy Woman program and the Zonta Club of Parker County to learn more about heart disease in women on Thursday evening, Feb. 21.
Visit www.weatherfordregional.com/healthywoman to register for this event or call 817-599-1699.
About the author: Kimberly Strickland, D.O. is a family medicine physician at Weatherford Medical Associates and a member of the medical staff at Weatherford Regional Medical Center. She provides care for men, women and children of all ages and is now accepting new patients. To schedule your appointment, call 817-341-7670 or visit www.weatherfordmedicalassociates.com. Remember that this information is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor, but rather to increase awareness and help equip patients with information to facilitate conversations with their physician.