It is the New Year, and many of us have already made our resolutions. Whether it’s losing weight, reading more, or spending more time outside, many of us have things in our lives we would like to change. This year, I have made the resolution to be heart healthy. While this may seem daunting, it is the most important goal.
On November 15th at our annual Research Luncheon in Milwaukee, we were honored to have Dr. Marc Gillinov speak to us about how we can promote our heart health. Dr. Gillinov is a staff cardiac surgeon at The Cleveland Clinic Heart Center and is board certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery. He holds the Judith Dion Pyle Chair in Heart Valve Research at Cleveland Clinic and recently co-authored the book “Heart 411: The only Heart Guide You Will Ever Need.”
At the Luncheon Dr. Gillinov explained that the resolution to be heart healthy can be as easy as knowing three numbers:
- LDL cholesterol level
- Blood pressure
- Body mass index
If your numbers are not where they should be, give yourself the whole year to fix them, and be patient. As Dr. Gillinov explained, “rapid isn’t lasting.”
The Numbers at a Glance
Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood. A total cholesterol level of 200 or below is desirable, while above 240 is considered high.
A blood pressure reading includes two numbers: the top number, or systolic, and the bottom number, or diastolic. Getting this number checked regularly can help make sure you are taking the appropriate steps for your health. Although medications are sometimes needed, there are other ways you can help lower your blood pressure:
- Reduce sodium in your diet
- Limit your intake of alcohol
- Avoid tobacco products and secondhand smoke
- Cut back on caffeine
- Reduce your stress
- Monitor your blood pressure at home
- Make regular doctor’s appointments
Body Mass Index:
The Body Mass Index, or BMI, is a number calculated from your height and weight and is used to determine if you are at risk for being overweight.
Knowing the Causes
The other main causes of heart disease are: not exercising, smoking, having a poor diet, and not knowing the important numbers. Complacency, Dr. Gillinov states, is also a cause of heart disease. Many people may think, “I feel pretty good,” but the first symptom of heart disease is often a heart attack. Dr. Gillinov went on further to explain that the confusion surrounding medicines can also be dangerous. He explained that “the big problem today is the confusion and misinformation about statins. Statins are the most widely prescribed cardiovascular medicine in the world.” Many people worry about taking medicines and having side effects that may come with them. However, Dr. Gillinov recommends that if you have a prescription for a statin, work with your doctor to change the dose, the dosing schedule, or even the type of statin you are taking. For statins “make people live longer, reduce stroke and heart attacks. They absolutely positively work. They are the biggest medical miracle heart wise in the last 20 years.”
So this month, get your numbers checked, and make the resolution to be heart healthy. If your numbers are good? Keep doing what you’re doing, and instead, resolve to help someone whose numbers do need help.
Because it all begins with a healthy woman…
Sue Ann Thompson is founder and president of the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation (WWHF), a statewide non-profit organization whose mission is to help Wisconsin women and their families reach their healthiest potential. WWHF provides programs and conducts forums that focus on education, prevention, and early detection of diseases that affect women the most; connects individuals to health resources; produces and distributes the most up-to-date health education and resource materials; and, awards grants and scholarships to women health researchers and related community non-profits. To learn more, visit wwhf.org or call 1-800-448-5148.