Heart Health Smarts

The first step to better heart health is to make an appointment for an annual well visit with your primary care physician. Tania Crussiah, M.D., with Williamsport Family Practice says people 45 years old and above should initiate a conversation about heart health especially if heart disease runs in the family.

Your conversation with your physician will include a discussion about your family medical history and your lifestyle. Smoking, drinking, weight gain, dietary habits and exercise all factor into your heart health.

Know Your Numbers

People age 45 or older can also expect their physician to periodically order a cholesterol panel and a diabetes screening to identify any other risk factors for heart disease. While your physician will interpret your test results, here are a few numbers you should know:

Total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dL with a LDL (bad cholesterol) goal of less than 100 mg/dL. Your HDL (good cholesterol) should be 50 mg/dL or higher.

Normal blood pressure is less than 120 mmHg systolic and less than 80 mmHg diastolic.

Blood glucose should be less than 99 mg/dL.

BMI of 25 or higher means you’re overweight. A waist circumference of more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men puts you at an increased risk for heart disease.

Focus on total health

  • Keep your heart rate up for 20-30 minutes five days a week. Some examples of moderate exercise include walking, bicycling, vacuuming, dancing, yoga, ice skating and water aerobics.
  • Whittle away at your middle by eating more fruits and veggies and performing core exercises.
  • Go back to the basics with food. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes. Tip: Veggies and fruit should take up more than half of your dinner plate.
  • Limit sitting time. Research indicates that sitting for long periods of time may increase blood pressure, blood sugar and body fat around the waist.
  • Chilax. Although women tend to short change themselves on “me time,” find a way to destress every day. Consider taking up yoga, knitting or jigsaw puzzles.
  • Log in between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.
  • Go to the dentist. Several types of cardiovascular disease may be connected to oral health.
  • Watch your alcohol consumption. Research shows that small amounts of alcohol raise levels of HDL or good cholesterol, but more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women can cause many heart-related problems.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking damages blood vessels and arteries and may decrease good cholesterol.
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