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Jyoti Sharma

Know your numbers to prevent heart disease

“Heart disease is a really serious problem here in the United States, especially for women,” says Jyoti Sharma, M.D., a cardiologist at Piedmont Heart Institute.

Heart disease kills more women than any other illness and one in three will die from heart disease.

Those are some scary statistics, but there is silver lining: We have a lot of control over our risk factors, so heart disease can be preventable.

Know Your Numbers

One of the best ways to protect yourself is to “know your numbers.” These numbers include:

  1. Blood pressure
  2. Cholesterol
  3. Body mass index (BMI)
  4. Fasting blood glucose (also known as fasting blood sugar)

“Once you know those numbers, you can do things to start preventing disease,” says Dr. Sharma.

What’s your blood pressure?

Knowing your blood pressure is important because having high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) can lead to:

Get your blood pressure checked regularly – it’s easy to do. Your physician, grocery story pharmacy and even local fire department can check your blood pressure.

A number of less than 140/90 is a good target.

If you find out you have high blood pressure, it can often be controlled by a healthy meal plan and regular exercise, but medication is available if lifestyle adjustments aren’t enough.

Obesity and heart disease

One in three Americans is obese, which is a risk factor for heart disease. There are three key numbers everyone should know regarding their weight:

  • Body mass index (calculated based on height and weight)
  • Waist circumference
  • Weight

If your waist size or weight is high, you are at higher risk for:

“Some of the most important things we can do are work out regularly, get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet and reduce our stress as much as possible,” she says.

Can you feel high cholesterol?

Having high cholesterol is also a risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. You can’t “feel” high cholesterol, so getting it checked on at least an annual basis is a must.

When you get the results from your cholesterol screening, you’ll see four key numbers:

  • Total cholesterol: Ideally less than 200
  • HDL (good) cholesterol: Ideally more than 50
  • LDL (bad) cholesterol: Ideally less than 100
  • Fasting blood sugar (taken after you haven’t eaten for about eight hours): Ideally less than 100

“The good news about having high cholesterol is if you do need medication, we have great medications that are available and really good at treating cholesterol and reducing your risk for heart attack and stroke,” says Dr. Sharma.

The bottom line about heart disease

“Even though heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, it doesn’t have to be,” she says. “We have a lot of control over preventing these types of diseases and the first step is to know your numbers.”

Talk to the women you love about Piedmont’s $99 heart screening.

Book an appointment with a Piedmont cardiologist today.

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