Two of the best things you can do to make sure your heart is healthy are maintain a good diet and exercise regularly. Set a goal to exercise for 150 minutes each week, and eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Weight and body mass index, or BMI, are major contributors to heart health, and you should aim for a BMI of 25 or less. Blood pressure is another contributor. The top number (systolic level) should be less than 130, and ideally 120. The bottom number (diastolic level) should be less than 80.
High cholesterol significantly increases an individual’s risk of heart disease, especially if it goes untreated. Generally speaking, your LDL, or “bad cholesterol,” should be below 160. From a prevention standpoint, the most important message is to focus on a healthy lifestyle and modifying risk factors. It’s important to discuss your personal and family health history, as well as other risk factors for heart disease, with your health care provider, as treatment of your cholesterol may require medications and taking preventative action can be potentially lifesaving.
The hemoglobin A1c test shows your average level of blood sugar over the past 2 to 3 months. Individuals with an A1c of 6.5 or greater are considered diabetic, while those with an A1c of 5.7-6.4 are considered prediabetic. So, ideally, your HbA1c should be less than 5.7 and your fasting glucose level should be less than 100.
Signs of a heart attack include:
- Chest pressure or tightness.
- A burning feeling in your chest.
- Shortness of breath.
- Discomfort that moves to your jaw, shoulder, neck and arms.
- Nausea – light-headedness, dizziness or passing out.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to call 9-1-1 right away. Quick treatment can help limit the damage being done to the heart and increase the chance of a full recovery.
Our community is fortunate, as Cone Health is one of America’s 100 best hospitals for cardiac care, according to Healthgrades, the leading online resource for comprehensive information about hospitals. The Healthgrades designation includes Annie Penn Hospital, Moses Cone Hospital and Wesley Long Hospital, collectively listed as Cone Health. Cone Health has an exceptional network of primary care physicians, and heart and vascular specialists dedicated to helping patients maintain wellness and lower their risk of developing conditions such as heart disease.
Christopher Berge is an advanced nurse practitioner with Cone Health Medical Group HeartCare at Burlington. Berge received his Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the College of New Jersey. After working as a cardiac cath lab and cardiac critical care nurse, Berge obtained his Master of Science in Nursing degree and Adult Nurse Practitioner certification from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2002.