Keeping good tabs on your heart health will help you avoid cardiovascular disease as you grow older. The best way to ensure you’re doing so is to get regular check-ups that include heart screening tests and by discussing your risk factors with your doctor.
Heart screening test schedule
The American Heart Association recommends the following schedule for heart screens:
Screening, when, age
Blood pressure, every health care visit and at least every two years if at 120/80 mm Hg, ages 20 and older
Cholesterol, every five years if in normal range; more often if over 200 mg/dL, have risk factors or 45 or older, ages 20 and older
Body Mass Index (BMI), every health care visit, ages 20 and older
Waist circumference, as needed, ages 20 and older
Blood glucose, every three years, ages 45 and older
Healthy hearts events at TMH
In honor of AHA’s Heart Health Month, come in and learn about cholesterol and get a free blood pressure check.
February blood pressure checks
Know your numbers — stop by the TMH Medical Clinic at 785 Russell St. for a free blood pressure screening. No appointment is necessary.
Kids and Cholesterol Talk
Cholesterol is on the rise in children and teens in recent years. Having high numbers early in life can set the stage for future health problems. Making lifestyle changes now can make all the difference. Learn more from TMH board-certified pediatricians, Dr. Kristie Yarmer and Dr. Kelly Follett. Light refreshments will be served.
When: 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: TMH Conference Rooms, 750 Hospital Loop, Craig
Cost: Free to attend
One of the most important regular tests you can get is a blood pressure screen. That’s because most people do not feel any symptoms when their blood pressure is high, and high blood pressure greatly increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Plan to get one at every doctor visit, and more often if you are above the normal range of 120/80 mm Hg.
Next up is a fasting lipoprotein screen, which gives your total cholesterol number. Ideally, it should be below 200 mg/dL and your HDL — or good cholesterol — should be greater than your LDL, or bad cholesterol.
“The higher your total cholesterol, the higher the chance plaque is building in your arteries,” states Cinde Porter, PA-C with TMH Medical Clinic.
You will need to complete all health screens more regularly if you have risk factors for heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, smoking increases your risk by two to four times. Being overweight or obese, having diabetes, not exercising regularly and eating a high-fat, high-salt diet also are risk factors for heart disease.
“Smoking is the No. 1 risk factor for heart disease. There is also a strong genetic component to heart disease, so if you have a first-degree relative who had a heart attack at a younger age, tell your doctor,” said Dr. Jon Hamilton, a family medicine physician with TMH Medical Clinic.
When it comes to improving your heart health scores — and keeping your heart healthy — there are two choices: lifestyle changes and medicines.
“Medicines are an important option, but I like to start patients on diet and exercise improvements first,” Porter said.
For cardiovascular health, aim to exercise 60 minutes per day. That may sound daunting, so start smaller with goals such as exercising more days than not and vowing to move your body every day. Cutting out high fat meats and dairy products, fried foods and extra salt and sugar will go a long way in keeping your heart healthy. And of course, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is highly recommended.
This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig — improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered health care and service excellence.