Nearly Half of Americans Face Serious Heart Risks
Think you're not at risk for heart disease? According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there's a 50-50 chance you're wrong. Almost half of all Americans have at least one of three conditions that raise heart risks: diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.
But take heart: There are three steps you can follow to improve your health and protect your cardiovascular system.
Step 1: Know Your Risks
For the new report, CDC researchers tested Americans all over the country. They found more than 15 percent had one or more of these conditions without even knowing it.
To avoid this fate, talk with your doctor. He or she should check your cholesterol at least every five years and your blood pressure every two years, and test you for diabetes every three years after age 45. You might need more frequent screenings based on your personal risk factors.
In general, you have:
High cholesterol if your total number is 240 mg/dL or higher
High blood pressure if your reading is 140/90 mmHg or higher
Diabetes if your fasting glucose level is 126 mg/dL or higher
Step 2: Get in Control
Your doctor can help you set goals that are right for you. In general, for the best heart health, aim for:
LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, of less than 100 mg/dL
HDL, or "good" cholesterol, of 60 mg/dL or higher
Triglycerides less than 150 mg/dL
Blood pressure of 120/80 or lower
Step 3: Practice Prevention
To achieve your targets and stay healthy:
Keep your weight in check. Extra pounds weigh down your good cholesterol and boost the bad. If you're heavy, losing 7 to 10 percent of your body weight prevents complications from high blood pressure, and losing 5 to 7 percent reduces your risk for diabetes.
Exercise. Aim for 30 minutes per day, five times a week. Not only will it help you maintain a healthy weight, it can lower LDL, raise HDL, reduce blood pressure, and ward off diabetes on its own.
Eat a healthy diet. Cut sodium and saturated and trans fats. Consume more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, and lean meats.