It’s Time To Take Care of Your Sweet Heart 

Published 10:41 pm Tuesday, February 19, 2019

For most, February is the month for sweethearts celebrating love with roses, chocolates and romantic dinners. But it’s also the perfect time of year we recognize American Heart Month, to focus on your sweet heart, keeping it healthy and happy with better nutrition, and regular exercise. Education and awareness are also important to heart health. Blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and obesity all affect the heart working properly to keep you healthy. 

Roughly the size of a fist, the heart is the main organ that pumps blood throughout the body to supply oxygen and nutrients to tissues. If the heart is not able to supply blood to the organs and tissues, they’ll die. With heart disease being the No. 1 killer of men and yes, of women, February and every month of the year would be a good time to think about your main squeeze. 

While stroke, heart disease or heart attacks can be deadly, there are preventive measures one can take to protect the organ that provides nourishment to the rest of your organs. According to St. Luke’s Hospitalist Dr. Thomas Dashiell, it’s vital for people to pay attention to vital numbers like blood pressure and body mass index to live a healthier life. 

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Blood Pressure 

One of the biggest predictors for heart disease is measured in two numbers. The top number, or systolic, indicates the pressure of blood against artery walls during a heartbeat, when the heart is pumping blood. The bottom number, or diastolic, is the pressure of blood against artery walls between heartbeats, when the heart is filling with blood. In general, normal blood pressure is 130/80 or below.  

Recently, guidelines were revised to include “prehypertension,” a condition that affects an estimated 45 million men and women whose blood pressure numbers are 120 to 139 over 80 to 89. Health experts recommend that people with prehypertension make heart healthy lifestyle changes now to reduce their risks of blood pressure complications, such as heart disease, stroke and kidney damage. 

With high blood pressure known as the silent killer, please remember to keep a check on your numbers and see your primary care provider for regular checkups. 



Probably the most familiar heart disease risk factor, cholesterol is the type of fat that, while an essential nutrient for our bodies, can be dangerous floating around in our bloodstream. Too much cholesterol increases the risk for hardening of the arteries, which can lead to heart disease, heart attack and stroke. 

Of course we have “good” (HDL) and “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, but when total cholesterol is 200 or higher, it’s considered abnormal. Again, keep a check on your numbers and see your primary care provider for regular checkups. 


Body Mass Index 

This is an indirect measure of body fat, using your weight and height to gauge if you are overweight. A BMI of 18.5-24.9 is ideal; a BMI of 30 or more indicates obesity. These, too, are important numbers to know. 


Blood sugar 

Being overweight with too little exercise increases your chances of type 2 diabetes. This can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and even blindness; don’t take this lightly. A fasting blood-sugar test (not eating or drinking anything for 12 hours) is the most common test to diagnose type 2 diabetes. A normal fasting blood sugar is 100 or less; prediabetes is 101-125. If that number reaches 126 or higher, this indicates diabetes. Dr. Dashiell advises his patients to take these numbers seriously and see your family physician for regular checks. 


Of course, exercise is a must for a healthy heart. So grab your Valentine, your dog, or your baby and stroller, and take a walk around the neighborhood, Harmon Field, the Raymond Fitness Trail, or FENCE. Ride a bike, hit some tennis, learn to line dance or take up volleyball. Even golf! Exercise for fun and for your good health. It doesn’t have to be a major time commitment; just about 30-45 minutes of aerobic activity three to five times a week. These are important numbers to know as well. 

Another good number to remember? 894-3311. That’s the number to St. Luke’s Hospital and access to education, services, clinical staff and medical professionals to meet the your healthcare needs with exceptional care, close to home. 

And see your primary care provider for preventive care so you don’t have to call this number: 9-1-1. 


– Submitted by Kathy Woodham