February is American Heart Month

High cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors of heart disease.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.

Perhaps the last thing you think about on a daily basis is your beating heart that makes your body function each and every day. It’s something we take for granted that should be more of a focus.

Recently the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology released updated cholesterol guidelines to help with prevention and treatment. Since high cholesterol is a significant risk factor for heart disease, the new guidelines will help physicians make more detailed, individualized treatment plans for patients.

The main thrust of the guidelines is dietary and lifestyle changes. Most importantly, adhering to a nutrition plan like the Mediterranean diet which emphasizes eating fresh, whole foods and less processed and high fatty foods.

Dr. Drew Purdy, Cardiologist with Regional Health Heart and Vascular Institute, says, “That’s why the American heart Association and everybody talks about color … because you want fruits and vegetables and all those sort of things that are bright colors. And any fruit or vegetable is going to be better for you than red or other processed meats.”

And one of the most important components for health is exercise, a recommended 30-45 minutes of continuous exercise 4 days a week.

Even people who look unassuming could be at risk due to family history of heart disease – a major risk factor is genetics, so if your siblings, parents or grandparents particularly had heart disease before the age of 65- you are at a higher risk.

Taking care of your health early in life is vital.  

“Cholesterol is an inherited disease and so there are things that you can do to make a difference, you can lower the bad (LDL) probably 10 or 15% with a diet and we can raise the good (HDL) with exercise,” notes Purdy.

High cholesterol usually has no symptoms. That’s why it’s important to have your doctor check your cholesterol levels. A simple blood test will shed light on your cholesterol levels and allow you to make informed decisions about your health. And now there is no recommendation to fast before the test.

Purdy says, “Routinely, it probably should be checked every year because the levels tend to increase over time. Initial screening about age 18 and then probably every five years after that, but probably when you get into the 50 range, that is where people really start developing more plaque and problems, then probably yearly with a routine physical examination you should get it checked, because it does change over time and it can go up with age.”

Click here for more information on the new cholesterol guidelines.

The Rapid City Heart Ball will be held February 23rd, an evening of dining and dancing to raise money and awareness for heart health.

Categories: Wellness Wednesdays