Heart Disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, yet 80% of all heart attacks can be prevented. A great way to reduce your risk is to know your heart screening numbers. The most important are blood pressure, blood sugar, LDL and HDL cholesterols and body mass index (BMI). These values, in addition to your family history and personal habits (tobacco use, exercise and stress management), help health professionals design strategies that can lead to a long lifetime of heart health. Blood Pressure is the force with which your heart pumps blood through your blood vessels. Remembering that your heart is a pump and the vessels are hoses makes blood pressure easier to understand. Blood pressure measurements are recorded as two numbers. The higher number is the systolic pressure, and the lower number is the diastolic pressure. Systolic blood pressure is a measure of the amount of force (pressure) generated by the heart when it contracts. Diastolic pressure is a measure of the amount of force in between contractions.

What is a healthy blood pressure?

A healthy blood pressure reading is anything below 120/80, which is read as “120 over 80”. Blood pressures higher than that should be checked again. High blood pressure (hypertension) is diagnosed when either the systolic or the diastolic pressure is high on repeated occasions.

What can I do to maintain or improve my blood pressure?

• Take time for exercise most days of the week. Walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise, and it also happens to be one of the best ways to maintain a healthy blood pressure.

• Limit your sodium intake. The American Heart Association recommends generally healthy individuals eat no more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day. Eating as little as 1,500 mg every day is optimal for heart health.

• Manage your stress in healthy ways, get plenty of sleep and avoid tobacco and excessive alcohol use.

What is Blood Sugar?

Blood Sugar is exactly what it sounds like—a measure of the sugar level in your blood stream. Diabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are consistently too high. While high blood sugar levels are not a direct cause of heart disease, people with diabetes are 2-4 times more likely to have heart attacks or strokes.

What is a healthy blood sugar reading?

A healthy fasting blood sugar reading is anything less than 100. Similar to blood pressure, high blood sugar readings warrant follow-up and close monitoring to ensure your levels are not consistently high. Catching high sugar values early (pre-diabetes) can help people change their habits to avoid diabetes altogether.

What can I do to maintain or improve my blood sugar?

• Limit your intake of simple and added sugar. Limit refined grains, baked goods, soda pop and other processed foods. Choose foods high in fiber such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

• Include strength building exercises in your workout routine. Maintaining and building muscle mass helps burn sugar.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a substance that our bodies use for a number of healthy functions. However, cholesterol is also one of the culprits behind heart disease when it accumulates in our blood vessels (arteries). When we are born, our arteries are wide open, but years of aging, fatty foods, lack of exercise and/or smoking can lead to cholesterol filled, blocked arteries. Rather than looking at your total cholesterol values, we encourage you to look at your LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol individually. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is the “bad” cholesterol carrier because high values increase the risk that cholesterol filled plaque is building up in our arteries. This build-up eventually causes blockages and clots that can result in a heart attack or stroke. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is the “good” cholesterol. It helps remove plaque from arteries and carries cholesterol back to the liver where it is recycled or eliminated.

What are healthy cholesterol levels?

A healthy total cholesterol is any result less than 200. Ideal LDL levels are those less than 100. Ideal HDL levels are greater than 60 for men and women. See chart below.

What can I do to maintain or improve my cholesterol?

• Watch your dietary fat intake. Limit foods high in saturated fat like red meat, pork, butter and full fat dairy products. Replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats such as plant oils, nuts, seeds, avocado and fish.

• Maintain a healthy weight for your height, do no smoke and engage in regular aerobic activity (e.g., walking, biking, swimming, or running).


Heart Smart Numbers Healthiest Values

High Risk Values

  Speak with your Doctor

Glucose (Blood Sugar) Fasting below 100 Fasting above 110
Blood Pressure Below 120/80 Above 140/90
LDL Cholesterol Below 100 Above 130
HDL Cholesterol Above 60 Below 40 for men

Below 50 for women

Triglycerides Below 150 Above 200
Body Mass index (BMI) 25 or less Above 30


 Heart Attack vs. Stroke

What is the difference between a heart attack and a stroke?

Although both heart attacks and strokes involve blood vessels and atherosclerosis, they are two different medical problems. A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked (often by a blood clot). A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain is blocked or cutoff.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

Signs and symptoms aren’t always the same but the most common symptoms in men and women are chest discomfort — either pain or pressure, left arm and/or jaw pain and shortness of breath.

What are symptoms of a stroke?

Remember F-A-S-T 

Face numbness or weakness

Arm weakness

Speech or communication problems

Time — don’t waste it!  Call 9-1-1 if there’s any chance of a heart attack or stroke.

Continue reading February 2022 Newsletter: International Spices for Heart Health