Preventing Heart and Vascular Disease: Know Your Numbers!

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the U.S. Some risk factors, such as your family history, are beyond your control. But there are many risk factors you can control. These include high blood pressure, tobacco use, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, obesity and physical inactivity. It’s also important to know the warning signs of heart attack so you can recognize them and act quickly. For more help with preventing heart and vascular disease and adopting a healthier lifestyle, visit the American Heart Association.

Blood Pressure
About one in every four American adults has high blood pressure, or hypertension. When high blood pressure is untreated, it can cause many health problems. Blood pressure is reported in two numbers: the systolic blood pressure, followed by the diastolic blood pressure.

  • Normal: Systolic below 120 AND diastolic below 80.

  • Pre-hypertension: Systolic 120-139 OR diastolic 80-89.

  • Hypertension State 1: Systolic 140-159 OR diastolic 90-99.

  • Hypertension Stage 2: Systolic 160 and above OR diastolic 100 and above.

If your blood pressure is abnormal on two or more occasions, contact your physician.

Tobacco Use
Smoking or otherwise using tobacco products greatly increases your risk of heart and vascular disease. If you’re ready to quit using tobacco, Oregon Heart & Vascular Institute has a practical, low-cost and effective approach to tobacco cessation through its Options Tobacco Cessation program. For more information, call 541-222-7216.

Almost 16 million Americans have diabetes. Many don’t even know it. Diabetes, especially if it isn’t managed well, contributes to risk of heart disease.

Food that we eat is broken down into glucose, then enters cells with the help of insulin. Diabetics have either too much blood glucose or not enough insulin to properly nourish cells. Find out what your blood glucose value is. Blood glucose is measured after a 12-hour fast. If your blood glucose is abnormal on two or more occasions, discuss it with your physician.

  • Normal: 100 mg/dL

  • Impaired glucose tolerance: 100-125 mg/dL

  • Diabetes: more than 125 mg/dL

Blood Cholesterol
High blood cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. Have your cholesterol checked regularly and discuss the results with your doctor. Know your total cholesterol number:

  • Desirable: Under 200 mg/dL
  • Borderline high: 200 to 239 mg/dL
  • High: At or above 240 mg/dL

In addition to your total cholesterol number, find our your HDL-C (“good cholesterol”), your LDL-C (“bad cholesterol”) and your triglyceride levels. Talk to your doctor about what your numbers mean for your cardiovascular health.

Weight Management
The best assessment of obesity isn’t simply your weight; it’s your body composition. Body Mass Index (BMI) assesses your body weight relative to height. It is an indirect measure of body composition and correlates closely with percent body fat in most people.

To calculate your BMI, use this formula or: 
Multiply your weight (in pounds) times 703. Multiply your height (in inches) times itself. Divide the first number by the second number. For example, for someone who weighs 200 pounds and is 6 feet tall (72 inches) the formula would be (200 times 703) divided by (72 times 72), or a BMI of 27.

  • Underweight: BMI under 18.5

  • Healthy: 18.5 to 24.9

  • Overweight: 25 to 30

  • Obese: Over 30

Physical Activity
Physical activity is the key to achieving optimal health and wellness. Regular physical activity has many health benefits including:

  • Weight control (lower BMI)
  • Improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Decreased risk of cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease

Walking is an ideal exercise. Use a pedometer to measure your daily steps. Many sedentary people average only 2,000 to 3,000 steps per day. Current guidelines recommend 10,000 steps per day for long-term health and reduced chronic disease risk. If you currently average fewer than 10,000 steps, try increasing your average by 500 per day. For successful sustained weight loss, walk 12,000 to 15,000 steps per day. To build aerobic fitness, make 3,000 or more of your daily steps fast. How to fit in all those steps? Walk the dog. Walk to visit a neighbor. Walk with your spouse, child or friend. Take the stairs. Walk to the store. Plan a walking meeting. Walk to work. Get off the bus early and walk.

Warning Signs of Heart Attack
Too often people experiencing symptoms of a heart attack aren’t sure what is wrong and wait too long before getting help. Warning signs* include:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. 

  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach. 

  • Shortness of breath. This feeling often comes along with chest discomfort. But it can occur before the chest discomfort or even alone. 

  • Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

*From the American Heart Association