5 Things You Should Know About Your Cardiovascular Health If You’re Over 45 with Dr. Slawomir Malendowicz, Cardiologist

1. Know your Blood Pressure.

High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke because it damages the lining of the arteries, making them more susceptible to the buildup of plaque, which narrows the arteries leading to the heart and brain. About 116 million US adults (nearly 1 in 2) have high blood pressure,   Normal blood pressure should be no higher than 119/79. Make sure to check your blood pressure the proper way, starting with remaining quietly seated (no conversation) for at least 10 minutes before measurements, with your legs supported on the floor (not crossed). The blood pressure cuff should be applied on a bare upper arm (not over clothing), additionally, your arm should be supported on a flat surface (such as a table) at the proper height, with the upper arm at heart level. If your blood pressure is elevated, in addition to contacting your physician, implement lifestyle modifications; eliminate salt from your diet, implement weight loss, and exercise.

2. Know your lipid profile.

High LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol can double a person’s risk of heart disease. That’s because excess cholesterol and other risk factors like diabetes melitus, smoking, certain drugs like cocaine can facilitate build up of plaque, which narrows the arteries leading to the heart and brain. If your LDL is elevated (make sure to consult your physician what level of LDL is normal for you) then in addition to medical treatment, implement lifestyle modifications such as diet changes, and exercise to promote weight loss.

3. Exercise.

Improvements in cardiovascular health and general physical fitness can foster an overall enhancement in the quality of life which are ample reasons to embrace physical exercise. In addition, exercise has beneficial effects on weight control and several other important cardiovascular risk factors.

  • Improvement in lipid profile – Exercise reduces serum triglycerides and increases serum high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, with variable effects on total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol.
  • Reduction in blood pressure – The implementation of a regular exercise regimen (such as jogging two miles or riding a bicycle for 45 minutes) can, within four weeks, lower the BP by as much as 5 to 15 mmHg in patients with primary hypertension.
  • Treatment and possible prevention of type 2 diabetes mellitus – Exercise training programs increase activity of mitochondrial enzymes, leading to improved muscle energetics, decreased insulin resistance, and a lower rate of progression to overt type 2 diabetes. In addition, exercise (eg, brisk walking) also has a cardiovascular benefit similar to that seen for secondary prevention in nondiabetics.
  • Reduction in inflammation – There is increasing evidence that inflammation, as manifested in part by elevations in serum C-reactive protein, plays an important role in atherosclerosis. Regular exercise reduces the atherogenic activity of blood mononuclear cells, with a decrease in the production of atherogenic cytokines and an increase in atheroprotective cytokines.

4. Know your BMI ( Body Mass Index)

Calculate your BMI;  https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm   Avoid Obesity. Normal weight – BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2.  For Example if you 5’10 and weigh 175 lbs you are overweight (BMI 25.1).

5. Realize.

Realize that the risk of heart attack (myocardial infarction) does not depend on the degree of narrowing of the coronary arteries by the atherosclerotic plaque (e.g. 30% vs. 90% blockage) but rather on the composition of the plaque, which depends on your cardiovascular risk factors like hypertension, hyperlipidemia, Diabetes Melitus, Smoking, Family History, Obesity, Inactivity. This underscores the importance of modifying the risk factors and explains why asymptomatic people and people with normal cardiovascular stress tests may have fatal myocardial infarction if their cardiovascular risk factors are not controlled.

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