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Will You Give Me Your Number(s)?
April 10, 2019

By: Luis Tejada, M.D.

St. Luke’s Heart & Vascular Center Cardiologist

During your last visit to your family’s physician or cardiac specialist, did he or she seem a little pushy and ask for you numbers? I hope so. Physicians must insist on knowing their patients’ key internal numbers: blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and body mass index (BMI).

As a St. Luke’s Heart & Vascular Center physician, my job is to not only treat but also prevent cardiovascular disease. Knowing my patients’ numbers is critical to diagnosing and monitoring heart and vascular conditions. If these numbers start to creep up or leap out of the normal ranges, they individually or collectively increase cardiovascular disease risk and can lead to serious complications.

Age increases the likelihood of higher blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and body weight. Therefore, it is important to have these numbers for an annual screening (or as often as your physician requests), and keep in mind that some people feel no symptoms when one or more of these numbers are out of the normal range.

Here are the numbers that tell us so much about cardiovascular health:

  1. Blood Pressure
    • A blood pressure cuff measures the force of blood against the arteries when the heart beats and rests. Blood pressure for a healthy person should be 120/80 mm Hg or less.
    • Uncontrolled blood pressure, known as hypertension, is a cause of stroke, which occurs when damaged or weakened brain blood vessels narrow, rupture or leak. High blood pressure, also may cause blood clots, blocking blood flow to the brain and resulting in stroke. It can lead to kidney failure and heart failure if not controlled.
  2. Cholesterol
    • Our bodies need cholesterol to produce cells, but too much of the “bad” kind of cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the arteries with fatty deposits clogging arteries.
    • A waxy substance produced by the liver, cholesterol is transported to and from cells by lipoproteins. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the “bad” cholesterol, whereas high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the “good” cholesterol. When you have too much LDL cholesterol, you are at risk for heart disease, such as atherosclerosis.
    • A lipid profile blood test includes checking for cholesterol levels. Talk to you physician about your cholesterol numbers and their indication for cardiovascular disease risk.
  3. Blood sugar
    • The amount of sugar in the blood is the key health marker for diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is very common in the United States and is a chronic condition that impacts the way the body processes blood sugar (glucose). For healthy people, fasting blood sugars should be 100 mg/dL or less.
    • Those who are prediabetic (at risk for diabetes) or diabetic often have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar – the trifecta for developing cardiovascular disease.
  4. Body Mass Index (BMI)
    • BMI is a measure of an individual’s body fat. A healthy BMI number is 18.6 to 24.9, which is calculated through a numerical value of weight in relation to height. Those considered overweight have a BMI of 25 to 29.9, and those who are obese have a BMI of 30 or higher. Ask your physician to determine the number.
    • Excess weight increases the work done by the heart. Too much body fat is also associated with a higher risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
    • If a patient comes to me with several of the above risk factors for cardiovascular disease, it’s time to have a serious conversation about ways to reduce the risks and treat the bad numbers. We will explore family history, other health concerns and lifestyle issues, such as: smoking, alcohol and drug use, exercise, diet and stress levels. The goal is to prevent heart disease from advancing.
    • Make time for all requested blood tests and review the results with your physician. Know your numbers!

For more information on heart disease and the services provided by the St. Luke’s Heart & Vascular Center, click HERE or call 484-526-7800.