The Simple 7 from the American Heart Association makes heart health so easy! If we make it a priority, we can all squeeze a little more exercise into each day, while eating better and controlling our sugar all together will help us lose weight. If you are a smoker, you may need some support from your doctor to help you put aside this one heart unhealthy activity. When it comes to managing our cholesterol and blood pressure, we might need a little more assistance understanding exactly what these two factors are all about to know better how to manage them.
“Cholesterol is a waxy substance that’s found in the fats (lipids) in your blood. While your body needs cholesterol to continue building healthy cells, having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.
When you have high cholesterol, you may develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits make it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Your heart may not get as much oxygen-rich blood as it needs, which increases the risk of a heart attack. Decreased blood flow to your brain can cause a stroke.
High cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) can be inherited, but it’s often the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices, and thus preventable and treatable. A healthy diet, regular exercise and sometimes medication can go a long way toward reducing high cholesterol.” – From the Mayo Clinic
Eating healthy fats such as from nuts and olive or coconut oils, in place of fats from dairy or other oils, is a great way to head off in the direction of healthy cholesterol. Eating steel cut oatmeal regularly is also a cholesterol fighter. Exercise and cutting back on high fatty meats is another way to keep your cholesterol in check.
Ask your doctor to check your cholesterol numbers each year at your annual checkup to keep on top of your levels, and make adjustments in your diet and lifestyle before it gets out of control.
Who knows what the two numbers mean when you measure your blood pressure? A healthy blood pressure is 120/80, that’s your goal. The other day at my doctor’s my blood pressure was 120/81 and the nurse commented about it being high. Hmmmm, I thought, yes, in comparison to what I usually run, but I’m right there with every one else who is the healthy average. The point for me is that my normal is lower, so 120/80 might be on the high side for me. There was a little alarm was going off in my head to check my (ahem, stress-filled) lifestyle, and do a little better at controlling my diet – especially after I come home from work when I think I need a little treat to reward myself for making it through another hectic day!
The top number is called your systolic blood pressure, which is the measure of how hard your heart has to pump the blood in it to push it out through to the rest of your body. If your vessels are wide open and relaxed, the systolic number will be within normal range. If you are stressed which causes your blood vessels to tense and tighten, or your vessels are clogged up with fatty plaques, your heart will have to pump harder to overcome the resistance the smaller vessel size causes. It’s like taking the same amount of water you use from your hose to water your garden, and try to pump it through a drinking straw. It won’t take long before your straw can’t take the pressure of such a high volume of water trying to squeeze through, and bursts. This is what happens in the case of a stroke.
The bottom number is called your diastolic blood pressure, which is the measure of the pressure within the heart after it has just finished pumping. It is the measure of pressure when the heart muscle is relaxed. If it is too high, then the heart is not relaxed enough to refill with more blood to pump another beat. The blood that normally fills the heart then backs up, and pretty soon your heart begins to weaken and fail.
A heart attack occurs when the vessels within the heart muscle themselves become blocked by plaques, and when they are so blocked that very little or no blood can pass through to feed oxygen and nutrients to the heart itself, the tissue begins to die. This causes chest pain and the signs of a heart attack and is an emergency situation.
When was the last time you had your blood pressure checked and do you know what a good blood pressure is for you? When was the last time you had your cholesterol checked and do you know what a good cholesterol is for you?
These are two really good basic indicators of your heart health, they are worth keeping an eye on them to live a long and heart healthy life!