by Jamie Lober
Good cardiovascular health starts with knowing the numbers. “You can have some control over weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar through non-pharmacological means,” says Dr. James Kmetzo, a cardiologist at Doylestown Hospital. Under the guidance of a health professional, anyone can set goals for proper diet, exercise and screenings. Here are some basic guidelines to consider.
Screenings are Important
People do not always know they have a heart issue. The critical screening measures recommended by the American Heart Association for individuals over 20 are weight, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure and a fasting lipoprotein profile (total cholesterol, as well as a breakdown of high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein types, as well as triglycerides). Waist circumference is sometimes needed to help evaluate cardiovascular risk. Not all of these tests need to be done every year, but patients should discuss them with their doctors along with lifestyle factors like smoking, physical activity and diet. A blood glucose test is recommended every three years for people 45 and over.
Being screened, understanding the test results and knowing the optimum range for heart health indicators helps us keep our heart in check. Guidelines and individual circumstances change, so consistent and regular checkups are vital. Regarding blood pressure, Kmetzo remarks: “Unfortunately, they have relaxed the guidelines and slacked it off to somewhere between 140/50 and 140/90, whereas the previous guideline had been 130/90, so many people fall through the cracks. Sometimes with blood pressure elevated for a while, you can get dizziness, change in vision or headaches.” Someone with coronary disease may have angina, shortness of breath or chest discomfort upon exertion.
Some Risk Factors can be Controlled
Maintaining the proper weight and a health daily diet is crucial. Kmetzo suggests limiting fat, especially saturated fat, as well as cholesterol, calories and salt. “Cheese is an item you want to stay away from since it has cholesterol and salt,” he states. Read labels, and look to fish, pork and chicken as substitutes for red meat.
Movement is another key to a healthy heart. “When you wake up in the morning, ask yourself when, not if, you are going to exercise,” advises Kmetzo. He recommends 45 minutes per day of exercise four to five times a week. Simply walking or doing anything aerobic is beneficial.
The goal is to maintain the optimum body mass index and blood pressure. “I ask people to buy a blood pressure cuff and check their blood pressure on occasion and to have a scale in the bathroom to weigh themselves,” comments Kmetzo.
Never feel discouraged. “Heart disease is common, and there are probably 80 million Americans with hypertension, which is just high blood pressure,” says Kmetzo. “There is no reason why you cannot improve your overall profile with lifestyle modifications, medications and regular follow-up appointments with a team that includes the family doctor and cardiologist.”
Jamie Lober is president of Talk Health with Jamie, Inc. and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine. Connect with her at Jamie@GetPinkPower.com and TalkHealthWithJamie.com. February 2014.