Dr. deGuzman: A guide to good heart health

People should be interested and concerned about the best ways to stay healthy and reduce risk for serious conditions.  In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death with one in every four deaths or about 610,000 people dying of cardiovascular related diseases every year.

Most of us will not remain heart healthy by accident.

Dr. Brian deGuzman

Dr. Brian deGuzman

In fact, 60 percent of us will experience a major heart or stroke-related event in our lifetime, but we have the ability to change the odds!

What can you do to live a longer and healthier life? And how will you know if you’re focusing on what’s most important?  If you’re going to give yourself the best odds, you’ll need to track some key numbers.  Consider the example of your car’s dashboard. Which of these gauges and indicators can help you operate your vehicle safely and keep it going mile after mile?  The gas gauge? Temperature indicator?  The oil pressure? Of course the answer is all of them.

By paying attention to your car’s data and responding with proper care and maintenance, most cars can last a very long time. Although a car’s engine and human heart are much different, they are both systems with several important indicators to track to keep them functioning well and for as long as possible.

Keeping track of some crucial numbers can go a long way in keeping you healthy. Here are five numbers that can guide you toward better health.

Blood pressure

High blood pressure is called the “silent killer” because it often has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not know they have it. That’s why it is important to check your blood pressure regularly.  Your blood pressure should be less than 120/80 mm Hg for adults age 20 and over.

The American Heart Association recommends a blood pressure screening at your regular healthcare visit with your doctor and once every two years, as long at it remains normal.  If it is elevated your doctor may want to check it more frequently.

Glucose

High sugar or glucose levels can be indicative of diabetes and adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or stroke.

Normal glucose levels should be less than 100 mg/dL after not eating (“fasting”) for at least eight hours.  The American Diabetes Association recommends that their doctor screen adults’ age 45 and older every three years.

Cholesterol

Elevated levels of certain forms of cholesterol increase your risk for cardiovascular disease.  If you are age 20 or older and have not been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, the American Heart Association recommends having your cholesterol levels checked every four to six years as part of a cardiovascular risk assessment.

Others may need to have it checked more frequently.

Your doctor will use your levels of HDL (“good cholesterol”), LDL (“bad cholesterol”) and triglycerides to determine your total cholesterol score, which can help to determine your risk for heart disease and whether treatment is warranted.

Most clinicians consider a total cholesterol of less than 180 mg/dL, LDL of less than 100 mg/dL and HDL of 60 mg/dL or higher to be optimal.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

BMI is a numerical value that evaluates your weight in relation to your height and at an individual level can be used as a screening tool of body fatness and health risk.

Normal BMI is between 18.5 and 25 kg/m2. A BMI higher than 25 kg/m2 is considered overweight and can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.

You can find out what your BMI is by using a calculator found at www.cdc.gov/bmi

Waist Circumference

Another way to estimate your potential disease risk is to measure your waist circumference.

Excessive abdominal fat place you at greater risk for obesity-related conditions. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention men with a waist circumference of more than 40 inches and a non-pregnant woman whose waist circumference is more than 35 inches are at higher risk for these conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

Keep in mind that your goals may be different based on your personal risk factors. Ask your doctor to help you follow these numbers and set health goals that are tailored to you.

Between doctor visits, you can monitor and easily track your blood pressure, glucose, BMI, and waist circumference.  Easy-to-use home blood pressure monitors, glucose monitors, bathroom scales and measuring tapes are readily available at retailers and pharmacies.

By tracking and keeping a log of these basic numbers, you will be able to take a daily, active role in managing your health and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

For more information about heart health visit www.heart.org.

About the authors:

Dr. Brian J. deGuzman received his medical degrees from Boston College, Georgetown University School of Medicine, University of Connecticut/Hartford Hospital, and Harvard Medical School. Dr. deGuzman was an Assistant Professor of Surgery, Associate Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery, and Surgical Director of the Atrial Fibrillation Clinic at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center’s Heart and Lung Institute from 2006 to 2012.  More recently Dr. deGuzman is serving as the CMO and CEO of Kaleidoscope Medical and is the current CMO at PAVmed Inc., a groundbreaking medical device company  (NASDAQ: PAVMU).

He is married to Keri deGuzman, a nursing graduate from Northeastern University and practiced as a Pediatric Cardiac ICU nurse at Boston Children’s Hospital, Cleveland Clinic, San Diego Children’s Hospital, and here at St. Joseph’s Hospital. They reside in Paradise Valley with their 4 children. Kari DeGuzman serves on the 2016 Heart Ball Committee.  The 2016 Heart Ball will be held on November 19, 2016 at The Phoenician Resort and Spa.  Tickets are available at phoenixheartball.heart.org or call Lisa at 602-414-5332

Editor’s Note: Dr. deGuzman is a Paradise Valley resident.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.