Heart Health and You

Heart health depends on many factors. The main two are blood pressure and cholesterol.

Is your blood pressure what it should be?

Your body uses blood to deliver oxygen to all of your organs. Your heart acts as a pump that pushes oxygenated blood through a complex system of arteries and veins. Each pump exerts a certain amount of force against the walls of those vessels. That pressure is what we call blood pressure.

There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure. Those with a family history of the disease are more likely to develop it and can pass the risk factor on to their children. Age also increases risk, because blood vessels begin to lose their elasticity over time. Some lifestyle choices can put you at risk, such as unhealthy diet, being overweight, using tobacco products and not effectively managing stress.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), 1 out of every 3 Americans has high blood pressure. The AHA recommends you get a blood pressure screening at least every two years, starting at age 20. If your numbers are higher than normal, you should get screened more often.

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Cholesterol: The good, the bad and the ugly

Cholesterol plays important roles in the body. A normal, healthy human body produces all the cholesterol it needs, usually in the liver, and circulates it through the blood. High levels of saturated and trans fats in your diet can cause your liver to produce excess cholesterol. There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). A third type of fat, triglyceride, combines with LDL and HDL to make up your total cholesterol count.

The AHA recommends all adults age 20 or older have their cholesterol, and other traditional risk factors, checked every four to six years. Cholesterol screenings can be done with or without fasting, but a non-fasting test can only measure your total cholesterol and HDL, because LDL and triglycerides are affected by what you eat. Your doctor will help you decide which test is right for you. Adopting a heart-healthy diet, committing to regular exercise and quitting smoking are all essential in lowering bad cholesterol.


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