This blog was written by Jenna Pearson. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.
It is no secret that heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, with more than 27% of all deaths being attributed to Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). What is shocking is that apparently healthy individuals are dying of heart disease every single day. In fact, 39% of American adults perceive themselves as having ideal heart health, while less than 1% actually do.
Are you healthy? You might say “I exercise regularly and eat right,” but is that enough? Doctors agree that, in most cases, a healthy diet and adequate exercise are not enough. While both are very important, they are simply pieces of the puzzle that come together to create a picture of optimal health. It may sound obvious, but in order to get yourself closer to an ideal state of health you need to become educated in two areas:
- Your current state of health.
- What it actually means to be healthy.
One way to “grade” your heart health is through risk stratification. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) presents the following as positive risk factors for CAD:
- Family history: Heart attack, bypass, or sudden death in first-degree male relatives before 55 years of age, or before 65 years of age.
- Cigarette smoking: Current smokers or those who quit within the preceding 6 months.
- Hypertension: High blood pressure defined as systolic pressure (top number) being greater than or equal to 140 mm Hg, OR diastolic pressure (bottom number) being greater than or equal to 90 mm Hg.
- Dyslipidemia: High cholesterol defined as LDL (“bad”) cholesterol greater than 130 mg/dL, OR HDL (“good”) cholesterol less than 40 mg/dL, OR on lipid-lowering medication. Having HDL greater than 60 mg/dL is considered to be a negative risk factor, and thus negates a positive risk factor.
- Impaired fasting glucose: Fasting blood glucose (“blood sugar”) greater than or equal to 100 mg/dL.
- Obesity: Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 30, OR waist girth greater than 102 cm for men and 88 cm for women, OR waist-to-hip ratio greater than or equal to .95 in males and .86 in females.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Persons not participating in a regular exercise program or not meeting minimal physical activity recommendations.
Knowing your individual risk factors for CAD is the first step toward reaching ideal heart health. Do you know where you stand? Have you had an annual physical or participated in a Know Your Number health screening? If so, congratulations! You are on your way to better health!