|(Photo courtesy of
Brigham and Women’s Hospital)
The best way to improve your heart health and prevent cardiovascular disease is to know your blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose and weight numbers, and keep them in check.
“The key to heart health is to know your numbers and to ultimately know your risk,” says JoAnne Foody, director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Cardiovascular
Wellness Service (www.brighamandwomens.org/cvwellness), a program dedicated to preventing heart disease and raising awareness about heart health.
The first number that you should know is your blood pressure. High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke, currently affecting one in four adults in the United States. Most concerning is that high blood pressure often has no symptoms, lending to its reputation as the “silent killer.” Whether you have your blood pressure regularly checked by a primary care physician or cardiologist, knowing your blood pressure and reducing it when necessary could help save your life.
High cholesterol is an extremely common risk factor for heart disease, affecting roughly 42 million Americans. This condition causes the build-up of fatty deposits in your arteries, which can block the flow of blood and lead to heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Like high blood pressure, high cholesterol often has no symptoms. That is why knowing what your cholesterol is — especially if high cholesterol runs in your family — is important to maintaining heart health. Through a healthy diet, exercise and medication, when necessary, you can take control of your cholesterol and minimize your risk for heart disease.
Nearly one in 12 Americans are currently living with diabetes — a chronic disease that can double or triple the risk for heart disease when poorly managed. If you have never had your blood sugar checked it is important to do so — especially if you have a family history of diabetes. With a simple blood test, doctors can determine if you have high blood sugar, indicating diabetes or pre-diabetes. With treatment and lifestyle changes, individuals can control, and in some cases reverse, their diabetes, drastically improving their cardiovascular health.
Overweight and obesity are two of the most common risk factors for heart disease in the United States, affecting two-thirds of the population. Fortunately, research has shown that individuals looking to lose weight have a number of options, from diet and exercise to support groups and even medical weight-loss procedures. And although losing weight may seem like a giant hurdle to overcome, losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can have significant health benefits. Knowing your current weight and waist circumference, along with establishing a goal for a healthy weight are important to improving your heart health.
Do you know your numbers? If not, make an appointment to see your doctor or visit one of the Cardiovascular Wellness Service’s free monthly heart disease screenings held in local Boston communities. With a few quick tests that doctors and screenings provide, you can find out your numbers, know your risk for heart disease, and take control of your heart health.
For more information on free screenings or help finding a cardiologist, call (617) 582-4821 or visit www.brighamandwomens.org/cvwellness.