It’s easy to think that heart problems are men’s problems, because it’s what you mostly hear about. Even those medical ads on television seem to focus on men’s heart issues. Be aware: heart disease kills women, too.
Cardiologists from St. Luke’s Heart and Vascular Center tell why you need to pay attention to those numbers you hear about all the time: blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and body mass index (BMI). “Let’s start with blood pressure,” says a St. Luke’s Cardiologist. “When your blood pressure is high, it puts a strain on your heart and on your arteries, which can, over time, become thicker, less flexible, and clogged. It’s important to know what’s normal for you, so you can recognize if there’s a change.”
Cholesterol numbers are related to blood pressure: too much of the “bad” cholesterol you hear about can build up as plaque in your blood vessels, narrowing them and making it difficult for blood to pass through — which increases your blood pressure. Likewise, says a St. Luke’s Cardiologist, high blood sugar levels are linked to higher levels of plaque. Both cholesterol and blood sugar levels can be found with a simple blood test.
Your BMI is often used as an indicator that you are carrying the right amount of weight for your height. While not perfect, this number can give you a range to look at; if you’re over it, you risk putting unnecessary strain on your heart.
All these numbers help focus you on the best ways to take it easy on your heart. Now, it’s up to you — and your doctor — to make sure you’re on the right path.