by Sheryl Alexander, DC, PA-C, Billings Clinic Heart and Vascular
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, hearts seem to be everywhere you look this time of year. That’s why it is especially fitting that February is American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness of heart disease and how we can help prevent it. It’s also the perfect opportunity to remind ourselves to take good care of our hearts year-round.
There are a number of things you can do to show your heart how much you care, including eating a healthy diet, taking part in regular physical activity and working to reduce the amount of stress in your daily life. One of the most important things you can do to take control of your heart health is to be aware of and know how to manage a few important numbers that are key indicators of heart health.
Is your blood pressure at normal levels? One in three adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease. It’s important to know what your blood pressure is and if it falls into the normal range, which is below 120/80. If your numbers are at 120-129/less than 80, your blood pressure would be considered “elevated.” Hypertension – or high blood pressure – occurs at levels of 130-139/80-89.
Do you know your cholesterol numbers? Your medical provider measures three different facets of your cholesterol – HDL (the “good” kind), LDL (the “bad” kind) and triglycerides (fat used to store excess energy from the foods you eat). Your goal should be to have healthy cholesterol levels of:
- Total cholesterol: Less than 200
- HDL (good): 50 or higher for women and 40 or higher for men
- LDL (bad): Less than 100
- Triglycerides: Less than 150
Family heart health history
Some of the things you have in common with fellow members of your family – like genetics, environment and lifestyle factors – can play a role in your personal health. By having a working knowledge of your family’s medical history, you can help your provider identify where you may be at higher risk for certain conditions like heart disease and work to reduce your risks through lifestyle changes.
The best way to know and stay on top of your heart health numbers is by having them checked at regularly scheduled visits with your primary care provider. When you give your heart the attention and care it deserves and know your numbers, you and your provider will be in a better position to catch any issues that may arise and help keep your heart strong, healthy and ready for all that life has to offer.
If you would like to speak to a primary care provider about your heart health numbers, call (406) 327-4170.