It's Time To Take Care of Your Sweet Heart

Time's ticking. If you haven't made dinner reservations, picked up some fancy chocolates or ordered those long-stemmed roses, you could be in trouble. Valentine's Day is drawing near! It's a time of year to share love and hope for the future.

St. Luke's Hospital would like to implore you to take care of your sweet heart or someone you love. Did you realize that heart disease is the No. 1 killer for men and women? Did you know that most heart attacks or other causes of heart disease could be prevented? Alison Owens, MD and Medical Director of St. Luke's Hospital's Emergency Department would like to give gentle reminders of simple steps to a healthier heart:

Blood Pressure-one of the biggest predictors for heart disease is measured in two numbers. The top number, or systolic, indicates the pressure of blood against artery walls during a heartbeat, when the heart is pumping blood. The bottom number, or diastolic, is the pressure of blood against artery walls between heartbeats, when the heart is filling with blood. Normal blood pressure is 119/79 or below.

Recently, guidelines were revised to include "prehypertension," a condition that affects an estimated 45 million men and women whose blood pressure numbers are 120 to 139 over 80 to 89. Health experts recommend that people with prehypertension make heart healthy lifestyle changes now to reduce their risks of blood pressure complications, such as heart disease, stroke and kidney damage.

With high blood pressure known as the silent killer, please remember to keep a check on your numbers and see your physician for regular checkups.

Cholesterol-Probably the most familiar heart disease risk factor, cholesterol is the type of fat that, while an essential nutrient for our bodies, can be dangerous floating around in our bloodstream. Too much cholesterol increases the risk for hardening of the arteries, which can lead to heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

Of course we have "good" (HDL) and "bad" (LDL) cholesterol, but when total cholesterol is 200 or higher, it's considered abnormal. Again, keep a check on your numbers and see your physician for regular checkups.

Body Mass Index-This is an indirect measure of body fat, using your weight and height to gauge if you are overweight. A BMI of 18.5-24.9 is ideal; a BMI of 30 or more indicates obesity. These, too, are important numbers to know.

Blood sugar-Being overweight with too little exercise increases your chances of type 2 diabetes. This can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and even blindness; don't take this lightly.

A fasting blood sugar test (not eating or drinking anything for 12 hours) is the most common test to diagnose type 2 diabetes. A normal fasting blood sugar is 100 or less; prediabetes is 101-125. If that number reaches 126 or higher, this indicates diabetes.

Take these numbers seriously, and see your family physician for regular checks.

Or course, exercise is a must for a healthy heart. So grab your Valentine, your dog, or your baby and stroller, and take a walk around the neighborhood, Harmon Field, the Raymond Fitness Trail, or FENCE. Ride a bike, hit some tennis, learn to line dance or take up volleyball. Even golf! Exercise for fun and for your good health. It doesn't have to be a major time commitment; just about 30-45 minutes of aerobic activity three to five times a week. These are important numbers to know as well.

Another good number to remember? 894-3311. That's the number to St. Luke's Hospital, where we offer the education, services, clinical staff and medical professionals to meet your healthcare needs, with exceptional care, close to home.

St. Luke's Hospital is here for you on this Valentine's Day and always to help you take care of your sweet heart.