Thomas Willke MD, a family medicine doctor at Indian Springs Family Medicine, suggests three critical – and easy – steps for keeping your heart healthy and strong.
Tip #1: If You Smoke, Stop!
Did you know that a year after quitting smoking, your risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke is reduced by up to 50 percent?
Smoking – even just a couple cigarettes daily – has been linked to a variety health conditions, including cardiovascular problems. “Absolutely get rid of all cigarettes,” Dr. Willke stresses.
Tip #2: Know Your Cholesterol Numbers
Cholesterol is a soft, wax-like substance found in all parts of the body. While your body needs a little bit of cholesterol to work properly, too much cholesterol can clog year arteries, leading to heart disease.
It’s important to know your cholesterol levels, which are determined from calculations and measurements of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and triglycerides. Standard total cholesterol goals for adults are:
- Best: lower than 200
- Borderline high: 200 - 239
- High: 240 and higher
The Most Important Cholesterol Level to Watch: LDL
Your LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol level is what your doctor monitors the closest. Your risk for heart disease goes down significantly if your LDL level is low. The optimal LDL level for most people is below 100 mg/dL (if you have a history of heart disease or are at a very high risk for developing it, the optimal level is less than 70 mg/dL).
If your cholesterol levels are in an unhealthy range, Dr. Willke says to make positive lifestyle changes – like taking medications prescribed by your doctor, exercising or following a heart healthy diet – to get them down.
Tip #3: Lower Your Body Mass Index (BMI)
Being obese puts extra strain on your entire body, especially your heart. “Get down to your appropriate BMI, which would be no more than 25 for whatever particular age you’re at,” Dr. Willke points out.