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Improving your heart health


February is American Heart Month–what better time to evaluate your heart health? According to the American Heart Association, the risk factors that can be improved by changes in lifestyle are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and weight. Keeping these risk factors in check can help you improve or maintain your cardiovascular health.

Blood Pressure – Do you know your average blood pressure? Is it within a normal, healthy range? If not, it could be putting you at risk for heart disease. Monitor your blood pressure regularly (we offer opportunities each month for free checks) and if it is high, consult your doctor. Tips to help lower or maintain blood pressure include eating a healthy diet, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking.

Cholesterol – Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that comes from our bodies and our food sources. High cholesterol levels contribute to plaque build-up in the arteries of the heart. Monitor your cholesterol and talk to your healthcare provider about what your results mean. If you need to lower your cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe medication. Other ways to help lower cholesterol include eating a healthy diet low in saturated fat, being physically active and quitting smoking.

Blood Sugar – Carbohydrates in the food we eat is broken down into glucose (sugar) in our digestive systems. In some people, glucose builds up in blood instead of entering the body’s cells to be used. Chronic high blood sugar can lead to damage of several organs, including the heart. Many health care providers will recommend screenings and will work with you to manage blood sugar levels depending on the results. Eating a healthy diet, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking can help support health blood sugars. If you are struggling with your blood sugars, our Diabetes Center offers a Diabetes Education Program.

Weight – When your body carries excess weight, it can put a burden on your heart increasing your risk for heart disease. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is a great way to improve your overall health and lower your risk for heart disease, among many other chronic illnesses. Eating a healthy, balanced diet of appropriate portion sizes and being physically active are great ways to start weight loss, but the journey can be difficult to navigate. If you need support reaching your goals, contact our Center for Healthy Weight & Wellness to learn about the variety of programs available to help you.

Did you notice something that all of these risk factors have in common? They can all be improved with these positive lifestyle changes:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Being physically active
  • Quitting smoking

If you’d like a better look at your heart health, Mercer Health offers patient authorized, direct access vascular screenings as an affordable option for heart screenings. This $45 package of tests includes:

  • Carotid Artery Ultrasound test checks for plaque buildup; helps identify the risk of stroke.
  • Abdominal Aorta Ultrasound test checks for presence of an aneurysm that could lead to a ruptured aorta.
  • Peripheral Artery Diseases measures the circulation to your legs to help detect peripheral vascular disease, and indicator of heart disease.

These screenings do not require an order from a provider and are available by appointment two Saturdays per month at Mercer County Community Hospital. Contact our central scheduling department at 419-678-5112 to schedule your appointment.

Source: American Heart Association