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Albright College

TIP OF THE MONTH
February

Are You at Risk?

Preventing Heart Disease, Heart Attack and
Stroke

Sounds simple doesn't it? So why is coronary heart disease and stroke the No. 1 and No. 3 killers of Americans? One reason is undeniably a lack of commitment to a heart-healthy lifestyle. Your lifestyle is not only your best defense against heart disease and stroke, it's also your responsibility. You can reduce all of the modifiable risk factors for heart disease, heart attack and stroke including by following these three simple steps:

AVOID TOBACCO
BE MORE ACTIVE
CHOOSE GOOD NUTRITION

Stop smoking. If you smoke, quit. If someone in your household smokes, encourage them to quit. We know it's tough, but it's tougher recovering from a heart attack, stroke or living with chronic heart disease.

Reduce blood cholesterol. Fat lodged in your arteries is a disaster waiting to happen. Sooner of later it may trigger a heart attack or stroke. Reduce your intake of saturated and trans fat and get moving. If diet and exercise alone isn't helping, then medication is the key.

Total Cholesterol - less then 200 mg/dl
LDL (bad) Cholesterol - LDL goals vary.

  • Low risk - less than 160 mg/dl
  • Intermediate risk - less than 130 mg/dl
  • High risk for heart disease including those with heart disease or diabetes - less than 100 mg/dl

HDL (good) Cholesterol - 40 mg/dl or higher for men and 50 mg/dl or higher for women
Triglycerides - less than 150 mg/dl

Lower high blood pressure. It's the single largest risk factor for stroke. Stroke is the NO. 3 killer in the U.S. Recovery is difficult and you could be disabled for life. Although, medical science doesn't understand why most cases of high blood pressure occur, so it's hard to say how to prevent it. However there are some factors that may contribute to high blood pressure. One in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, but since there are no symptoms, nearly one-third of these people don't know they have it. High blood pressure is often referred to as the "silent killer." Your goal is less than 120/80 mmHg.

Controllable risk factors

  • Obesity - People with a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher are at risk.
  • Eating too much salt - High sodium intake increases blood pressure in some people.
  • Dinking too much alcohol - Heavy and regular use of alcohol can dramatically increase blood pressure.
  • Lack of physical activity - This makes it easier to become overweight and increase blood pressure.
  • Stress - Mentioned as a risk factor, but stress levels are hard to measure, and vary person to person.

Uncontrollable risk factors

  • Race - Blacks develop high blood pressure more often than whites, tends to occur earlier and be more severe.
  • Heredity - If your parents or other close blood relatives have high blood pressure, you're more likely to develop it.
  • Age - Generally, the older you get, the greater your chances are. Occurrences are more likely after 35. Men seem to develop often between 35 and 55. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after menopause.

Be physically active every day. 30-60 minutes of physical activity can help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and keep weight at a healthy level. Studies show people with moderate levels of fitness are much less likely to die early then people with a low fitness level.

Aim for a healthy weight. Obesity is an epidemic in America, for adults and children alike. Fad diets and supplements are not the answer. Obesity adds to the risk for developing high cholesterol, high blood pressure and insulin resistance, which is a precursor of type II diabetes. These factors heighten your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Manage diabetes. People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of diabetes-related death.

Reduce stress. There is a noted relationship between coronary heart disease risk and stress in a person's life. People under stress may overeat, start smoking or smoke more than they would otherwise. It has been shown that stress in young adults predicts middle-age blood pressure risk.

Limit alcohol. Alcohol can raise blood pressure, cause heart failure and lead to stroke. It contributes to high triglycerides, irregular heartbeats, cancer and other diseases, in addition to obesity, alcoholism, suicide and accidents.

Have a heart healthy February.

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