Did you know that heart disease and stroke are the leading killer of American women? (Now you do.) Read on for five ways to improve your overall health and minimize your risk of developing life-threatening diseases.
We want our mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces and wives (and co-workers!) to be around a long time. So in celebration of National Wear Red Day, a “a passionate, emotional, social initiative designed to empower women to take charge of their heart health,” Infomedians are uniting to support women’s health by shedding light on risk factors for heart disease and stroke. There are five key numbers we should be tracking that can help healthcare providers determine the risk level for cardiovascular disease and stroke.
What are they?
Blood Pressure – Hypertension, or high blood pressure, blocks oxygen from getting to your heart and other organs, which makes them work harder. Maintaining a healthy range means less strain on your heart and other organs and arteries which aids better overall health. Changes in your sleep, stress, exercise and even posture can cause the number to vary. However, adults over 20 years old should shoot for a healthy blood pressure of less than 120/80 mm Hg.
Blood Sugar – High levels of glucose are not healthy for your organs, nerves or other body parts. Diabetes, a condition in which the body does not produce enough insulin (or can’t effectively use the insulin it does produce), can prevent the body from turning glucose into energy. Left untreated, this can lead to cardiovascular disease. Minimize the amount of white sugar and high fructose corn syrup in your diet, and get plenty of exercise to help manage this number.
Body Mass Index (BMI) – Maintaining a healthy body weight means less stress on the organs and a reduction in blood glucose levels. Measuring your waist’s circumference is also a good indicator of whether you’re at risk for health issues. Men should have a circumference of less than 40 inches; women should aim for under 35.
HDL (“Good”) Cholesterol – The higher this number is, the better, as that means it’s keep “bad” cholesterol from clogging your arteries. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help build it.
Total Cholesterol – Cholesterol is a substance that is naturally produced in the liver and other cells. But eating fatty foods can cause “bad” cholesterol to accumulate, which can cause blockages in the arteries, placing strain on the heart and can lead to heart attacks. Minimize “bad” cholesterol by minimizing or eliminating fatty foods from your diet.
If you made getting fit a resolution this year or are starting a new fitness regimen, this month is a great time to check your progress and monitor the risk factors mentioned. The road to better health is a marathon, not a sprint, and making small changes now will go far toward helping you achieve healthy outcomes in the long run (puns intended).