Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Women's Healthy Heart Numbers (Part 3)

BMI - Body Mass Index
The more overweight you are, the higher your risk of heart disease - even if you have no other risk factors.  Being overweight or obese also raises the chance of you developing diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  So, how do you know if you are overweight or obese?  One way, certainly not the only way, is to determine your BMI.  Use the chart below (you will need to ckick on it to enlarge it)

Once you have found your BMI, check it against the normal ranges -
Normal Weight:  BMI = 18.5 - 24.9
Overweight:  BMI = 25 - 29.9
Obese:  BMI = 30 or higher

How do you score???

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Women's Healthy Heart Numbers (Part 2)

The second number we are going to look at is Blood Cholesterol. The Doctor will usually test for 4 different measures: Total Cholesterol, LDL Cholesterol (the “Bad” guys), HDL Cholesterol (the “Good” guys) and Triglycerides.

Total Cholesterol:
Desirable:   less than200 mg/dL
Borderline High:   200-239 mg/dL
High:  240+ mg/dL

LDL Cholesterol:
Optimal:  less than 100 mg/dL
Near Optimal:  100-129 mg/dL
Borderline:  130-159 mg/dL
High:  160-189 mg/dL
Very High:  190+ mg/dL

HDL Cholesterol:
High:  60+mg/dL (for HDL, high is good!)
Low:  40 mg/dL or less

Normal:  less than 150 mg/dL
Borderline High:  150-199 mg/dL
High:  200-499 mg/dL
Very High:  500+ mg/dL

Although having a low level of blood cholesterol doesn’t mean you won’t have a heart attack, a high level will increase your chances of having heart disease/high blood pressure by accumulating on artery walls…meaning, the arteries get narrower, making it more difficult for the blood to be pumped through…which makes your heart work harder…all the time!

Your body produces most of the cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream (we all need some cholesterol), but foods high in saturated fat, transfats and cholesterol, together with sedentary living, can raise the level even higher.

If your LDL cholesterol is borderline high, your Doctor should recommend lowering it by reducing the saturated and trans fats and cholesterol in your diet, losing weight (if you are overweight) and increasing your level of physical activity (which also helps to raise the good HDL Cholesterol). If these lifestyle measures do not work or your LDL Cholesterol is high or very high, or, if you have other risk factors for heart disease (i.e. a hereditary predisposition), your Doctor may recommend cholesterol-lowering medicines, such as statins, together with the lifestyle changes. The triglycerides (associated with LDL) are the fat that is deposited in the blood vessels, which causes athrosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). The blood vessels need to be flexible to allow the blood to flow through…the more triglycerides, the narrower the tube and the less flexible it is…once again, making the job difficult for the old ticker!

To protect yourself, have your cholesterol checked at least every 2 to 3 years, more often if you have high cholesterol or other risk factors.

“"Exercise is king, nutrition is queen, put them together and you've got a kingdom. ...”  Jack Lalanne

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Women's Healthy Heart Numbers (Part 1)

Over the next few days, I will deal with an important “number” each day, how to obtain the numbers, and, then, what they mean, in terms of your health. Often we hear the terms bandied about, but really do not understand them.

Let’s start with Blood Pressure. How many times have you sat in your Doctor’s office and had it done, seen them nod their heads and record it. They never tell you unless you ask or it is high enough to make the alarm bells ring! And, even if they did tell you, do you even know what they mean?
Normal   -   119/79 or less

PreHypertension   -  120-139/80-89

Stage 1 Hypertension  -  140-159/90-99

Stage 2 Hypertension  -  160+/100+

More than half of women over age 55 have high blood pressure (HBP), which often has no symptoms. HBP increases the heart’s workload, putting added strain on blood vessels and increases the chances of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, or kidney problems.

So, what exactly do all those numbers mean? The top number, is called the systolic measurement…which is the pressure against the walls of your arteries when your heart is beating. The dystolic, the bottom number, is the pressure against the walls of your arteries when your heart is at rest. So, ideally, the less pressure, the better…right? Blood pressure should be checked annually; more often if it is elevate

If you are prehypertensive, your doctor will recommend (or should) you control/reduce your weight, exercise, discontinue smoking (if you do), limit your alcohol intake and sodium intake, rather than give you medication. If you have full-blown hypertension, you will likely be given blood-pressure lowering medications as well as the lifestyle changing recommendations.

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing - but a lot of ignorance is more dangerous.” - Unknown

Monday, February 1, 2010

What Numbers Do You Know By Heart???

I’ll bet you know a lot of numbers by heart!  Birthdates of your children/loved ones, phone numbers, bank account numbers, PIN numbers? But, do you know your BMI? Your cholesterol? Your blood pressure? Your body fat%? How much exercise you should be doing to keep healthy? Your metabolic rate and calorie expenditure to decrease or maintain body weight? If you are like most women, you don’t! As a matter of fact, the American Heart Association found only 13% of women knew their own risk status.

This month is National Heart Disease Awareness month, and I will be addressing issues regarding it in the next few blogs. Did you know that heart disease is now the #1 cause of death among women? Yep…men don’t have dibs on it any longer! All those protective hormones we had, decline as we age…so, hormone-wise, we become more like men (I don’t mean you’ll find yourself on the couch with the remote control in one hand and the other tucked into your pants!) and the diseases commonly associated with them.

Get to know what your numbers are, and what the benchmark numbers are for good heart health. Once you know your numbers, record them, don’t leave it to your doctor or health professional to be the only one who knows! If yours indicate an elevated risk, make the lifestyle changes needed to lower your risk and beat the odds. Cynthia Stuenkel, MD, and Clinical Professor of Medicine at the U of California says, that too many women say, “Just give me the medication, doc.” But, she says, “how we live our lives on a day-to-day basis is the most powerful medicine we have.” By taking preventative measures, studies suggest that you can reduce your heart disease risk by up to 82%!

So, why not turn the tables and change your lifestyle before a heart attack does it first!

“Take care of your life - without it, you’re dead.” - Unknown