When It Comes to Your Heart, Play Smart!

Tom LeGalley, MD, UP Health System – Marquette Heart & Vascular

Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, one in four people die of heart disease every year. That’s why it’s important to play smart with your heart. And there are a couple of simple, practical things you can do to stay on top of your heart game.


Did you know that by exercising as few as 30 minutes per day, you can improve your heart health and quality of life? And it doesn’t have to be hardcore, rigorous exercise. It can be as simple as taking a walk around the block. Studies show that for every hour of walking, you may increase your life expectancy by two hours. Regular walking can improve your cholesterol, lower your blood pressure, increase your energy and stamina and prevent weight gain. Walking is low-risk, can be done anywhere and anytime and is adaptable to your mood. You can go it alone, take your pup or meet up with a friend. And it works with a busy schedule. Try  breaking up your 30-minute walk into three, 10-minute walk breaks throughout the day – before work, during lunch or after dinner – whatever works best for you and is easy to maintain. However you choose to do it, your heart will thank you.

Know Your Numbers

Taking an active role in your health can help you ensure a long and healthy life. One step in taking charge of your heart health is knowing three key numbers:

Blood pressure

One in three adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure. It’s important to know what your blood pressure is and if it falls in the normal range, which is below 120/80. Pre-hypertension is 120 to 139/80-89 and hypertension (high blood pressure) is 140/90 or higher. 

Cholesterol levels

Your doctor measures three different facets of your cholesterol – HDL (the “good” kind), LDL (the “bad” kind) and triglycerides (fat used to store excess energy from the foods you eat). The numbers to strive for are:

Total cholesterol: 200 or below

HDL (good): 50 or higher for women/40 or higher for men

LDL (bad): 100 or below

Triglycerides: 150 or below

Waist size

According to the American Heart Association, your waist size is one of the best predictors of heart disease risk. A waist size equal to or greater than 35 inches in women and equal to or greater than 40 inches in men increases the risk of heart disease.

Understanding these three numbers and what they mean can help ensure that you’re on the right path to optimum heart health. If you’re unsure about your risk for heart disease, take an online health risk assessment and talk to your primary care doctor. He or she can help highlight any problem areas and provide a path to make changes that can help get your numbers in a healthy range. And, most importantly, remember to schedule your annual screening with your primary care doctor. It’s the perfect opportunity to get your latest numbers. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, use our online Find a Doctor tool on www.mgh.org or call 906.228.9440 to set up an appointment today.

While heart disease may be the number one killer of men and women in the U.S., the good news is that taking a couple of simple steps can help you improve your heart health today!

Four Surprising Things That Can Boost Your Heart Health

Dark chocolate. Yep. You heard us. Dark chocolate contains polyphenols, which reduce the number of cell-damaging free radicals in your body. Just don’t go overboard – research suggests indulging three times a month.

Be a good neighbor. Next time you see your neighbor, say hi! According to a University of Michigan study, people who felt like a part of their community, trusted their neighbors and felt safe were 34 percent less likely to have a heart attack.

Get a flu shot. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, getting a flu shot reduces a person’s risk of having a heart attack by roughly 36 percent. So, don’t skip your annual flu shot!

Drink coffee. Make it a grande. A Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health survey showed that drinking three to five cups of coffee a day may reduce the risk of developing clogged arteries and may reduce a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

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