As part of your overall health maintenance, you should check you blood pressure annually, Your doctor may check it more frequently if you fit the heart attack risk profile, or have had high readings in the past.
It is estimated that about 50 million Americans have high blood pressure, and most do not even know it. High blood pressure is also called hypertension. It is a condition where the heart is working extra hard to pump blood through narrowed or constricted arteries. If you have high blood pressure, and it is left unchecked, you could potentially suffer a stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and other serious problems.
While it is best to have your blood pressure checked during regular visits to the doctor, you can save time and money, by checking it yourself. Some pharmacies carry equipment for measuring blood pressure at home, but in many cases you can get a quick reading at one of the free-standing machines in the pharmacy or grocery store. If you plan on providing your own blood pressure test, you will need to know how to interpret a reading.
As blood courses through your body, it pumps in spurts. This movement is reflected in your blood pressure reading. That is why your blood pressure is expressed, for example, as 120/80. The number on top is called the systolic pressure. It measures the force with which the heart pumps blood. The bottom number, or diastolic pressure, measures pressure exerted between heartbeats, while the heart is resting. Normal blood pressure for most adults should be less than 140/85. If you are reading your blood pressure on your own, you should see a doctor for measurements above 140/90.
How does blood pressure rise? It is normal for blood pressure to rise slightly as we get older, but several factors seem to contribute to hypertension. These include:
- Race – hypertension is most common in African American men
- Obesity Stress
- Too much alcohol
- A sedentary lifestyle
Follow these suggestions, to keep your blood pressure in a safe zone: Do not smoke Reduce your salt intake. Keep it at around a teaspoonful a day Check food labels. Many canned and processed foods contain high levels of sodium Lose weight Eat fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains Cut down on high-fat foods. Limit your daily fat intake to no more than 30 percent of your total calories, with only 10 percent coming from saturated animal fats Don’t consume more than one alcoholic drink a day Exercise regularly Consider ways to reduce stress in your life. Try Prayer or meditation
Cholesterol is a waxy component found in our blood, that has the potential of clogging arteries. There are two types of cholesterol, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein). HDL cholesterol is referred to as “good cholesterol” because it actually removes cholesterol from the bloodstream. LDL cholesterol is referred to as “bad cholesterol” because too much of it can clog arteries, which then sets the stage for a heart attack or a stroke. Cholesterol is found in certain foods like dairy products, eggs and meat. A person can reduce their cholesterol by watching their diet, by eating less red meat and eggs, and by eating more fiber like oat bran cereal. In your blood test, you ideally want your TOTAL cholesterol level below 200, and an HDL cholesterol level over 60.
Because you want your HIGH-density lipoprotein level HIGH, and your LOW-density lipoprotein LOW, another key factor in your blood test is the ratio between your LDL and HDL. A desirable LDL to HDL ratio would be below 3.
|Sample Blood Test Scores|
|Cholesterol||HDL level (high density lipoprotein)||66|
|Cholesterol||LDL level (low density lipoprotein)||186|
|Total Cholesterol||HDL + LDL = total cholesterol||252|
|LDL/HDL Ratio||total cholesterol divided by HDL Color||3.82|
|PSA Level||Blood test to detect symptoms of Prostate cancer||0.7|
A simple finger-stick test at your doctor’s office can also give you important information about your triglyceride levels. More and more research is indicating that when these levels are elevated, there’s is an increased risk of heart disease. What are triglycerides? Triglyceride is a big word describing fat. It’s the form of fat in food and in your body tissue. A high-caloric intake, whether from fat or carbohydrates and proteins, can raise your triglyceride levels sky high. That’s because the body, converts all excess calories into triglycerides and stores them as fat. The trouble with triglycerides, aside from adding weight to your waistline, is that they can cause plaque to build up in your arteries. This can lead to high blood pressure. A combination of high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels is common in people with severe heart disease.
What should your triglycerides be? The normal level is less than 150 mg/dL. To keep your triglycerides in check: watch your weight; cut down on fat and cholesterol; exercise; eat fish that’s high in omega-3 fatty acids like tuna and salmon; and just as important, limit your alcohol intake.
If you are a man, your doctor may also test for the presence of prostate specific antigen in your blood. The PSA level, when tested in men over 50, can reveal if you are at risk of prostate cancer. This level may tell the doctor that he or she may need to perform more tests to check for prostate cancer. Generally, as a man gets older, his PSA level may get higher, because the prostate enlarges with age.
For men 40-49, PSA level should be below 2.5.
For men 50-59, PSA level should be below 3.5. For men older than 60, PSA level should be under 4.0. A high PSA level could mean the prostate is enlarged, or there may be an infection. It is not always indicative of prostate cancer.
While researchers have long established a link between heart attack occurrences and specific times and days of the week, until now, they knew very little about heart attack rates in relation to seasons. Research suggests that heart attack rates are at their peak during the winter, possibly attributable to holiday stress. Heart attacks at night are also found to be more deadly than those that occur during the day. And, Monday morning is the number one day of the week for a heart attack. Source: The American Heart Association’s 1998 Scientific Session in Dallas.
The American Heart Association has developed a quick quiz that may reveal if you are at or above normal risk of heart attack. Write down the appropriate number of points in each question. and add to determine your score. If your total equals four or more points, you may be at higher than normal risk of heart attack compared to the normal adult population. The more points over four, the higher your risk. If you scored over 4 points, you should see your physician regularly to manage and lower your risk of heart problems.