Here’s to Your Healthy Heart!

There is much you can do to help prevent heart disease and stroke. These tips can help:

  • Keep your blood glucose under control. You can see if your blood glucose is under control by having an A1C blood test at least twice a year. The A1C test tells you your average blood glucose for the past 2 to 3 months. Your doctor can tell you your recommended A1C level.
  • Keep your blood pressure under control. Have it checked at every doctor visit. The target for most people with diabetes is below 130/80.
  • Keep your cholesterol under control. Have it checked at least once a year. Your doctor will tell you what your target numbers should be. You target may vary by age, overall health and risk factors.
  • Make physical activity a part of your daily routine. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Check with your doctor to learn what activities are best for you. Take a half-hour walk every day. Or walk for 10 minutes after each meal. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Park at the far end of the lot.
  • Make sure the foods you eat are “heart healthy.” Include foods high in fiber, such as oat bran, oatmeal, whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables. Cut back on foods high in saturated fat or cholesterol, such as meats, butter, dairy products with fat, eggs, shortening, lard and foods made with palm oil or coconut oil. Limit foods with trans fat, such as snack foods and commercial baked goods.
  • Lose weight if you need to. If you are overweight, try to exercise most days of the week. See a registered dietitian for help in planning meals and lowering the fat and calorie content of your diet to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • If you smoke, quit. Your doctor can tell you about ways to help you quit smoking.
  • Ask your doctor whether you should take an aspirin every day. Studies have shown that taking a low dose of aspirin every day can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Take your prescribed medicines as directed.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Understanding and Managing High Blood Pressure

When your heart pumps blood, the blood pushes against the walls of your blood vessels. This creates blood pressure. You need blood pressure to move blood throughout your body, so every part of your body can get the oxygen it needs.

Healthy arteries (the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body) are elastic. They can stretch to allow more blood to push through them. How much they stretch depends on how hard the blood pushes against the artery walls. For your arteries to stay healthy, it’s important that your blood pressure be within a healthy range.

Checking Your Blood Pressure

Using a blood-pressure monitor, your healthcare provider can measure your blood pressure to see if it’s in a healthy range. Your blood pressure is recorded as two numbers. The systolic blood pressure (the “upper” number) tells how much pressure blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is pumping blood. The diastolic blood pressure (the “lower” number) tells how much pressure the blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.

Blood pressure is measured in units of millimeters of mercury, or mm Hg. For example, a blood pressure reading might be 120/80 mm Hg. A healthy blood pressure is under 120/80 mm Hg. A blood pressure reading of 120-139 systolic or 80-89 diastolic is defined as “prehypertension.” This means that the blood pressure is not high enough to be called high blood pressure (hypertension), but that it is higher than normal. If systolic blood pressure is 140 or greater, or diastolic blood pressure is 90 or greater, it’s high blood pressure.

Risk Factors

High blood pressure cannot be cured. It can, however, be managed effectively through lifestyle changes and, when needed, medication. In most cases, the cause of high blood pressure is not known.

Risk factors fall into two categories: those you can control and those that are out of your control, such as hereditary factors. Those you can control include a lack of physical activity, an unhealthy diet, obesity, drinking too much alcohol, excess stress, sleep apnea and smoking.

Talk with Your Doctor

If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it’s important to follow the treatment plan your doctor gives you. This will almost certainly include changes to your diet and physical activity level, and may include medication.

Source: American Heart Association; American Stroke Association