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Four Numbers that Can Save Your Life

By EmpowHER April 20, 2011 - 10:15am

These days there are lots of numbers women have to think about, such as telephone numbers, addresses, our social security number, bank accounts, and it goes on and on. These numbers may make it possible to navigate our complicated world, but as women there are four numbers we don’t think about often, but we should all take to heart.

Right now, one in four women will die of heart disease, but you have the power to change that by knowing four simple numbers: your blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels, BMI and family history risks. These numbers assess your risk for heart disease, and once you know that, you can take action to address them so you don’t become a statistic.

High blood pressure raises your risk of a heart attack or stroke, and you may not even be aware that you have it. The truth is, a third of all women do or are currently take medication to lower it. If you have high blood pressure, also called hypertension, you may be able to lower it by making smart food choices and exercising more. Some small steps can make a big difference to put you on a path to feeling better and lowering your numbers.

Knowing your blood glucose and cholesterol numbers are important too. Blood glucose tests determine if you have or are at risk for diabetes. Many people aren’t aware they have type 2 diabetes—the most common form of the disease— because many of its symptoms seem harmless.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t properly use insulin, which is sometimes called insulin resistance. Luckily there are ways to prevent type 2 diabetes or delay the onset.

So you are probably thinking, "What does this have to do with my heart?" People with diabetes are twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as those without it. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death for people with diabetes. Fortunately, by eating a healthy diet low in fat and sugar and staying active, you can control, delay, or even prevent diabetes.

When you have high blood cholesterol levels that’s a red flag that you are at risk for heart disease and unfortunately, half of all women have borderline-high total cholesterol levels.

It’s very important to monitor your cholesterol levels and here’s why. Cholesterol is a lipid, or fat-like substance, that travels through your blood and helps to form cell membranes and some hormones. Your body produces the cholesterol that you need naturally. The problem starts when there is too much cholesterol in your body. This may come from food you eat, like meat or dairy products rich in cholesterol. Or it is also possible that your body produces excess amounts of cholesterol or is unable to control cholesterol naturally.

If you have too much cholesterol, it can stick to the walls of your arteries keeping your blood from flowing freely. When this happens, the buildup is called plaque, and it can be a dangerous problem for you and your heart.

But don’t panic, there are some easy steps to take to reduce the bad cholesterol level (LDL) and increase the good cholesterol (HDL) and lower your triglycerides, a type of fat that circulates in your blood but is stored as body fat.

Your age and family history may also have hidden risk factors that could be affecting you now or in the future. A family history of heart disease and being over the age of 55 (around the onset of menopause) are two of the strongest risk factors. While you can’t change your genes or your age, you can change many behaviors that affect them. The first step is getting screened so you and your healthcare provider can make a plan to help you avoid heart disease.

There are three ways to learn what your four numbers are. Your doctor can provide the quick and easy tests at his or her office, or you can go to an urgent care center, outpatient clinic, hospital or health fair, or order home test kits to check your blood glucose or cholesterol levels. The women’s heart health foundation, Sister to Sister, has more details on how to get your Four Numbers and take action to prevent heart disease.

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BMI = Body Mass Index. BMI Normal weight = 18.5–24.9, Overweight = 25–29.9, Obese= BMI of 30 or greater.


November 14, 2011 - 6:27pm
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