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February 8, 2013

Keys to heart health – know your numbers

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

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.

Fasting lipoprotein

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.

Body weight

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.

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