Healthy Living in the Carolinas

Heart Health

Heart Health

In my journey to get my cholesterol numbers in a good place I have learned a lot. I have found out that my cholesterol numbers are NOT the only deciding factor of good heart health. About 50% of people that have heart attacks have good cholesterol numbers. Yep, it’s true.

Factors (other than high cholesterol) that make you at higher risk of developing heart disease are:

  •  Smoking
  • Obesity (20% over your ideal weight) For ex: a woman 5′-6″ that weighs 190 lbs is considered obese
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High C-Reactive Protein 
  • Uncontrolled stress and anger
  • Physically inactivity

C-Reactive Protein

What is C-reactive protein or CRP ? It appears to be correlated to heart disease risk. Inflammation (swelling) of the arteries has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease.
The body produces CRP during the general process of inflammation. Therefore, CRP is a “marker” for inflammation, meaning its presence indicates an increased state of inflammation in the body.  In studies involving large numbers of patients, CRP levels seem to be correlated with levels of heart disease risk. In fact, CRP seems to predict cardiovascular risk at least as well as cholesterol levels do.

If you have ANY of these risk factors, I highly suggest you get your C-Reactive Protein checked (blood work). Also, if you don’t know your cholesterol numbers it’s time you get annual blood work.  It could save your life.
I still to this day do not regret opting to NOT take statin drugs. I know many that have taken them and complained of muscle pain as one of the side effect.

Do your research before going on one. It’s been about 8 years since I was told to take one and I pushed back. I asked if I could lose the weight, exercise and change my lifestyle. My doctor agreed (the same doctor that told me to take the statin without even giving me this option). I am glad I found a new doctor!

After much research and an overhaul to my health I know it was the right decision. Find a good family doctor you trust. Choose your family doctor very wisely and don’t settle.  Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. You are worth the fight.  

Here are some ways you can reduce your risk of heart disease:

Quit Smoking

Smokers have more than twice the risk for heart attack as nonsmokers. Smoking is also the most preventable risk factor. If you smoke, quit. Better yet, never start smoking at all. Nonsmokers who are exposed to constant smoke (such as living with a spouse who smokes) also have an increased risk. So taking measures to eliminate this exposure to smoke is important.

Improve cholesterol levels

The risk for heart disease increases as your total amount of cholesterol increases. In general, your total cholesterol goal should be less than 200 mg/dl; HDL, the good cholesterol, higher than 40 mg/dl in men and 50 mg/dl in women (and the higher the better); and LDL should be less than 130 mg/dl in healthy adults. For those with diabetes or multiple risk factors for heart disease, LDL goal should be less than 100 mg/dl (some experts recommend less than 70 mg/dl if you are very high risk). Interpretation and treatment of cholesterol values must be individualized, taking into account all of your risk factors for heart disease. A diet low in cholesterol and saturated and trans fat will help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk for heart disease. Regular exercise will also help lower “bad” cholesterol and raise “good” cholesterol. Medications are often needed to reach cholesterol goals.

Control high blood pressure.

About 60 million people in the U.S. have hypertension, or high blood pressure, making it the most common heart disease risk factor. Nearly one in three adults has systolic blood pressure (the upper number) over 140, and/or diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) over 90, which is the definition of hypertension. Like cholesterol, blood pressure interpretation and treatment should be individualized, taking into account your entire risk profile.

Control Blood Pressure

Control blood pressure through diet, exercise, weight management, and if needed, medications.Control diabetes. If not properly controlled, diabetes can contribute to significant heart damage, including heart attacks and death.

Control Diabetes

Control diabetes through a healthy diet, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking medications as prescribed by your doctor.

Get active

Many of people lead sedentary lives, exercising infrequently or not at all. People who don’t exercise have higher rates of death and heart disease compared to people who perform even mild to moderate amounts of physical activity.

Even leisure-time activities like gardening or walking can lower your risk of heart disease. Most people should exercise 30 minutes a day, at moderate intensity, on most days. More vigorous activities are associated with more benefits. Exercise should be aerobic, involving the large muscle groups. Aerobic activities include brisk walking, cycling, swimming, jumping rope, and jogging. If walking is your exercise of choice, use the pedometer goal of 10,000 steps a day. Consult your doctor before starting any exercise program. My cardiologist recommends 150 minutes of walking a week.

Eat Healthy

Eat a heart-healthy diet low in salt, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and refined sugars. Saturated fats (found mainly in meat and full fat dairy) are a big no no in a healthy diet. You want to limit these greatly. Stop eating trans fats completely. There is no place for these in your diet.

Increase your intake of foods rich in vitamins and other nutrients, especially antioxidants, which have been proven to lower your risk for heart disease. Also eat plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. In my opinion, the quickest way to lower your cholesterol is to go plant based and eat very little refined sugars (if any). If you are struggling, give the plant based lifestyle a try.

Achieve and Maintain a Healthy Weight

Excess weight puts significant strain on your heart and worsens several other heart disease risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol and triglycerides. If you have any of these and are overweight, it’s time for you to make a change.

Research is showing that obesity itself increases heart disease risk. By eating right and exercising, you can lose weight and reduce your risk of heart disease and lower your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Manage stress

Poorly controlled stress and anger can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Use stress and anger management techniques to lower your risk. Learn to manage stress by practicing relaxation techniques, learning how to manage your time, setting realistic goals, and trying some new techniques such as guided imagery, massage, Tai Chi, or yoga.

Try to live a life of gratitude. Attitude is everything and can make a huge difference in your stress level. Don’t sweat the little things.


Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, or if you don’t feel refreshed after a full night in bed, talk to your doctor about what changes you can make to help.

Note: Much of this info was taken from Web MD and I added my personal knowledge I have gathered over the years. xo

Question or comment?