PINEHURST — Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women and people of most racial groups in the United States. The number one killer globally, heart disease was responsible for more than 9 million deaths in 2019.
FirstHealth of the Carolinas urges the community to “Go Red” this February as an effort to raise awareness about heart disease. On the first Friday of each February, which is designated as heart month, the nation unites in wearing red on National Wear Red Day to advocate for heart health. Raising awareness and knowledge of dangerous cardiovascular conditions can help prevent thousands of deaths.
Heart disease does not just happen, and many contributing factors can be improved, avoided or stopped. Understanding and being aware of certain risk factors, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, are critically important in lowering risk. Knowing your numbers is key.
Important health numbers to track include:
- Cholesterol: 240 or above is considered high, and cholesterol 200 or below is considered a healthy level.
- High blood pressure stage one begins at 130-139/80-89 mm HG, according to the American Heart Association. A normal blood pressure level is less than 120/80 mm HG.
- Body Mass Index (BMI): Being overweight puts strain on the cardiovascular system and increases risk. Target a BMI of less than 25.
- Blood glucose: With a glucose tolerance test, 140 mg/dL or below is normal, 140-199 mg/dL indicates prediabetes and 200 mg/dL or above indicates you have diabetes.
It is important to keep up with regular visits to your primary care doctor and monitor changes in weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose. Additional behaviors that increase risk include tobacco use, alcohol use and not getting enough physical activity. To take the FirstHealth heart disease risk assessment quiz, visit www.firsthealth.org/heartquiz.
Joseph Hakas, M.D., an interventional cardiologist with FirstHealth and Pinehurst Medical Clinic, said lifestyle changes can be sufficient in lowering heart disease if implemented early.
“A heart healthy lifestyle includes getting daily exercise and maintaining a healthy weight,” Dr.Hakas said. “Exercise can be done anywhere. Walking, gardening, playing golf, tennis and pickleball all count. The popularity of smart watches has helped get people moving and tracking their heart rates and steps. Avoiding tobacco products is also very important.”
Left unchecked, heart disease can lead to heart attack and stroke. Symptoms of stroke include loss of balance or dizziness, sudden loss of vision, drooping in the face, arm or leg weakness and speech difficulty. If any of these symptoms are present it is important to call 911 immediately. The quicker a stroke is treated, the less likely it is for a stroke patient to suffer brain damage.
To learn more about FirstHealth’s heart services, visit our website.