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    Baylor Plano

    1100 Allied Drive
    Plano, TX 75093
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    Baylor Denton

    2801 S. Mayhill Road
    Denton, TX 76208
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Heart Disease -
Information You Should Know

To help you better understand some critical things about maintaining your heart health, we are providing information in this section about various topics, including optimum cholesterol levels, symptoms of a heart attack, tips on how to maintain a regular exercise routine, and more. Just click on any of the links shown at right to get all the details.

Know Your Numbers,
Know Your Risk

Take our free heart disease risk assessment
To keep track of all your vital statistics,
print off your know your numbers card here

Know Your Cholesterol

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like, waxy substance found in the bloodstream and in all your body's cells. It's normal to have cholesterol. Cholesterol is an important part of a healthy body because it's used for producing cell membranes and some hormones, and serves other needed bodily functions. But too much cholesterol in the blood is a major risk for coronary heart disease (which leads to heart attack) and for stroke. Hypercholesterolemia is the medical term for high levels of blood cholesterol.

LDL (Bad) Cholesterol

When too much LDL (bad) cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. Together with other substances, it can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, heart attack or stroke can result.

HDL (Good) Cholesterol

About one-fourth to one-third of blood cholesterol is carried by high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL cholesterol is known as "good" cholesterol, because high levels of HDL seem to protect against heart attack. Low levels of HDL (less than 40 mg/dL) also increase the risk of heart disease. Medical experts think that HDL tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it's passed from the body. Some experts believe that HDL removes excess cholesterol from arterial plaque, slowing its build-up.

Your Total Blood Cholesterol Level

Less than 200 mg/dL: Desirable
200-239 mg/dL: Borderline-High Risk
240 mg/dL and over: High Risk

Exercise Regularly

Here are some tips for exercise success:

  • See your doctor for a medical evaluation before beginning a physical activity program, especially if you've been sedentary for a long time, are overweight, have a high risk of coronary heart disease or some other chronic health problem.
  • Choose activities that are fun, not exhausting. Add variety. Develop a repertoire of several activities that you can enjoy. That way, exercise will never seem boring or routine.
  • Wear comfortable, properly fitted footwear and comfortable, loose-fitting clothing appropriate for the weather and the activity.
  • Find a convenient time and place to do activities. Try to make it a habit, but be flexible. If you miss an exercise opportunity, work activity into your day another way.
  • Use music to keep you entertained.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people.
  • Don't overdo it. Do low- to moderate-level activities, especially at first. You can slowly increase the duration and intensity of your activities as you become more fit. Over time, work up to exercising on most days of the week for 30-60 minutes.
  • Keep a record of your activities. Reward yourself at special milestones. Nothing motivates like success!

Common Heart Attack Symptoms

A heart attack usually occurs when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood through a coronary artery -- a blood vessel that feeds blood to a part of the heart muscle. Interrupted blood flow to your heart can damage or destroy a part of the heart muscle.

Common heart attack symptoms include:

  • Pressure, a feeling of fullness or a squeezing pain in the center of your chest that lasts for more than a few minutes
  • Pain extending beyond your chest to your shoulder, arm, back, or even to your teeth and jaw
  • Increasing episodes of chest pain
  • Prolonged pain in the upper abdomen
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Impending sense of doom
  • Fainting
  • Nausea and vomiting

Additional, or different, heart attack symptoms in women may include:

  • Abdominal pain or heartburn
  • Clammy skin
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual or unexplained fatigue

Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of diabetes-related death. People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease due to a variety of risk factors.

If you have diabetes, you're more likely to have more cholesterol abnormalities -- which contributes to cardiovascular disease. Managing your cholesterol, and especially lowering LDL cholesterol, reduces your chance of cardiovascular disease and death. In fact, a person with diabetes who lowers his LDL cholesterol can reduce cardiovascular complications by 20 percent to 50 percent.

Diabetes mellitus is defined as a fasting blood glucose of 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or more. Prediabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal (a fasting blood glucose level between 100 and 125 mg/dL) but not yet diabetic. Impaired fasting glucose (IFG) and impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) are intermediate states of abnormal glucose regulation between how a body normally uses glucose and diabetes.

Impaired fasting glucose (100 to 125 mg/dL)

Impaired glucose tolerance (fasting glucose less than 126 mg/dL and a glucose level between 140 and 199 mg/dL two hours after taking an oral glucose tolerance test)

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It appears most often in middle-aged adults. Today, however, adolescents and young adults are developing Type 2 diabetes at an alarming rate. It develops when your body doesn't make enough insulin or develops "insulin resistance" and can't make efficient use of the insulin it makes.

Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in children and young adults. In Type 1, the pancreas makes little or no insulin. Without daily injections of insulin, people with Type 1 diabetes won't survive.

Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes may be inherited in genes. A family history of diabetes can significantly increase the risk of developing diabetes. Untreated diabetes can lead to many serious medical problems. These include blindness, kidney disease, nerve disease, limb amputations and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet

As part of a healthy diet an adult consuming 2,000 calories daily should aim for:

Fruits and vegetables: At least 4.5 cups a day
Fish (preferably oily fish): At least two 3.5-ounce servings a week
Fiber-rich whole grains: At least three 1-ounce-equivalent servings a day
Sodium: Less than 1,500 mg a day
Sugar-sweetened beverages: No more than 450 calories (36 ounces) a week

Other Dietary Measures:

Nuts, legumes and seeds: At least 4 servings a week
Processed meats: No more than 2 servings a week
Saturated fat: Less than 7% of total energy intake

What's the link between stress and heart disease?

Stress sets off a chain of events. First, you have a stressful situation that's usually upsetting but not harmful. The body reacts to it by releasing a hormone, adrenaline, that causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to rise. These physical reactions prepare you to deal with the situation by confronting it or by running away from it -- the "fight or flight" response. When stress is constant (chronic), your body remains in high gear and on for days or weeks at a time. The link between stress and heart disease is not clear. However, chronic stress that causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure may damage the artery walls.

Taking steps to manage stress has a double benefit. The actions you take will help you feel less stressed right away. They'll also help you feel more in control of your life and give you a greater sense of well-being, which will also decrease your stress.

Here are four simple techniques for managing stress:

Positive Self-Talk. This is one way to deal with stress. We all talk to ourselves; sometimes we talk out loud but usually we keep self-talk in our heads. Positive self-talk ("I can do this" or "Things will work out") helps you calm down and control stress.

Emergency Stress Stoppers. There are many stressful situations -- at work, at home, on the road and in public places. We may feel stress because of poor communication, too much work and everyday hassles like standing in line. Emergency stress stoppers help you deal with stress on the spot such as counting to 10 before you speak, taking three to five deep breaths, and walking away from the situation.

Finding Pleasure. When stress makes you feel bad, do something that makes you feel good! Doing things you enjoy is a natural way to fight off stress. You don't have to do a lot to find pleasure. Even if you're ill or down, you can find pleasure in simple things such as going for a drive, chatting with a friend or reading a good book. Try to do at least one thing every day that you enjoy, even if you only do it for 15 minutes.

Daily Relaxation. Relaxation is more than sitting in your favorite chair watching TV. To relieve stress, relaxation should calm the tension in your mind and body. Some good forms of relaxation are yoga, tai chi (a series of slow, graceful movements) and meditation. Like most skills, relaxation takes practice. Many people join a class to learn and practice relaxation skills. Deep breathing is a form of relaxation you can learn and practice at home. It's a good skill to practice as you start or end your day.

Manage Your Weight

Being overweight or obese increases your risk for diabetes. But if you already have diabetes, being overweight makes it harder to manage your diabetes, and increases your risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease (the major cause of death among people with diabetes).

How do I know if I am overweight or obese?

Your body is made up of water, fat, protein, carbohydrates and various vitamins and minerals. If you have too much fat -- especially in your waist area -- you're at higher risk for high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Waist circumference measurement and body mass index (BMI) are the recommended ways to estimate body fat. A high-risk waistline is more than 35 inches for women, more than 40 inches for men.

The body mass index formula assesses body weight relative to height. It's an indirect measure of body composition, because in most people it correlates highly with body fat. Weight in kilograms is divided by height in meters squared (kg/m2). Or multiply weight in pounds by 703, divide by height in inches, then divide again by height in inches. Or just click here for a BMI chart. Locate your weight and height to find your BMI. In studies by the National Center for Health Statistics:

Underweight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5
Normal is defined as a BMI from 18.5 to 24.9
Overweight is defined as a BMI of 25.0 to 29.9
Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30.0 or greater or about 30 pounds or more overweight
Extreme obesity is defined as a BMI of 40 or greater

How do I lose weight?

The first step is to talk to your doctor. Based on your health and current abilities, he or she will recommend modest lifestyle changes related to diet and physical activity. Physical activity is an important part of losing weight. It also improves insulin sensitivity and glycemic control. The amount of activity you begin with is up to you and your doctor, but the duration and frequency should generally increase to at least 30 to 45 minutes of moderate aerobic activity at least three to five times a week, or more. Greater levels may be required to achieve long-term weight loss.

Monitor Your Blood Pressure

What is Blood Pressure?

The organs in your body need oxygen to survive. Oxygen is carried through the body by the blood. When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through a network of tube-shaped arteries and veins, also known as blood vessels and capillaries. The pressure - blood pressure - is the result of two forces. The first force occurs as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries that are part of the circulatory system. The second force is created as the heart rests between heart beats. (These two forces are each represented by numbers in a blood pressure reading.)

This chart reflects blood pressure categories defined by the American Heart Association.

Blood Pressure Chart

Your doctor should evaluate unusually low blood pressure readings.

Stop Smoking

Step One

  • List your reasons to quit and read them several times a day.
  • Wrap your cigarette pack with paper and rubber bands. Each time you smoke, write down the time of day, how you feel, and how important that cigarette is to you on a scale of 1 to 5.
  • Rewrap the pack.

Step Two

  • Keep reading your list of reasons and add to it if you can.
  • Don't carry matches, and keep your cigarettes out of easy reach.
  • Each day, try to smoke fewer cigarettes, and try not to smoke the ones that aren't most important.

Step Three

  • Continue with Step Two. Set a target date to quit.
  • Don't buy a new pack until you finish the one you're smoking.
  • Try to stop for 48 hours at one time.

Step Four

  • Quit smoking completely. Throw out all cigarettes and matches. Hide lighters and ashtrays.
  • Stay busy! Go to the movies, exercise, take long walks, go bike riding.
  • Avoid situations and "triggers" you relate with smoking.
  • Find healthy substitutes for smoking.
  • Carry sugarless gum or artificially sweetened mints. Munch carrots or celery sticks. Try doing crafts or other things with your hands.
  • Do deep breathing exercises when you get the urge.

What happens after I quit smoking?

  • Your senses of smell and taste come back.
  • Your smoker's cough goes away.
  • Your digestive system returns to normal.
  • You feel alive and full of energy.
  • You breathe much easier.
  • It's easier to climb stairs.
  • You're free from the mess, smell and burns in clothing.
  • You feel free of "needing" cigarettes.
  • You'll live longer and have less chance of heart disease, stroke, lung disease and cancer.

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