Monday, December 22, 2014

MCFARLAND: Are you taking care of your heart?

By REBECCA MCFARLAND, Reaching Out | 2/5/2014

February is American Heart Month, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the federal proclamation. Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in Americans, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. And heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of women. Most of us know the importance of eating healthfully, getting regular physical activity, managing stress and quitting smoking. But getting routine screening for heart disease also is important. For many women, the demands of family, friends, marriage and career can leave little time for the small things — even routine doctor’s visits.

Even if you don’t have a heart condition, it’s crucial to schedule and keep annual exam appointments with your primary care physician. To make the most of the time with your doctor, prepare for your visit. Researchers at Ohio State University developed the PACE Guide Sheet to give you an easy way to organize your feelings, questions and concerns before your visit. PACE stands for:

February is American Heart Month, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the federal proclamation. Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in Americans, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. And heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of women. Most of us know the importance of eating healthfully, getting regular physical activity, managing stress and quitting smoking. But getting routine screening for heart disease also is important. For many women, the demands of family, friends, marriage and career can leave little time for the small things — even routine doctor’s visits.

Even if you don’t have a heart condition, it’s crucial to schedule and keep annual exam appointments with your primary care physician. To make the most of the time with your doctor, prepare for your visit. Researchers at Ohio State University developed the PACE Guide Sheet to give you an easy way to organize your feelings, questions and concerns before your visit. PACE stands for:

P — Provide information about how you feel.

A — Ask questions if you don’t have enough information.

C — Clarify what you hear.

E — Express any concerns you may have.

The key to preventing heart disease is recognizing and managing your risk factors. Regular screening is important because it helps you detect risk factors in their earliest stages and treat them with lifestyle changes and prescription drugs.

Regular screening tests should begin at age 20. The frequency of follow up will depend on your level of risk. You probably will require additional and more frequent testing if you’ve been diagnosed with a cardiovascular condition such as heart failure, atrial fibrillation, or if you have a history of heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular concerns.

The key screening tests recommended include:

Blood pressure — High blood pressure has no symptoms, so it can’t be detected without being measured. High blood pressure greatly increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. If your blood pressure is below 120/80, it should be checked every two years. If it’s higher, your doctor probably will want to check it more often.

Fasting Lipoprotein (cholesterol and triglycerides) — This test should be done every five years, starting at age 20. This is a blood test that measures total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides.

Body weight — Your doctor should weigh you to calculate your body mass index and measure your waist circumference. These measurements tell you if you’re at a healthful weight. About two of every three adults are now overweight or obese.

Blood glucose — You should have your blood glucose level checked at least every three years, starting at age 45. High blood glucose levels put you at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Smoking, physical activity, diet — If you smoke, your doctor can suggest approaches to help quit. If there’s room for improvement in your diet and daily physical activity levels, your doctor can provide helpful suggestions.

Remember, you are responsible for prioritizing your heart health. Even if you don’t have a heart condition, it’s crucial to schedule and keep annual exam appointments with your primary care physicians.

Rebecca McFarland is the family and consumer sciences extension agent for Frontier Extension District No. 11, which serves Franklin County. For more information, call her at (785) 229-3520 or email rmcfarla@ksu.edu

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