The American Heart Association (AHA) is asking everyone to wear red on Friday, Feb. 3, in celebration of Wear Red Day to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease in women. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both women and men in the United States.
According to the AHA, more than 20,000 women under the age of 65 die from heart attacks each year, but only one in three women even know that they are at risk for heart disease.
In addition, most cardiovascular disease is preventable. While you cant do anything about your age, your race or your heredity, which are risk factors for heart disease, you can take control of other risk factors such as: high blood pressure, smoking, physical inactivity, overweight, uncontrolled diabetes, and high cholesterol.
The AHA recommends that knowing your numbers and what those numbers mean can also help you reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Having your blood pressure checked regularly and keeping it at or lower than 120/80 is only one part of taking care of your heart. You should see your health care provider yearly to have blood work done, including a test of your total cholesterol level.
Cholesterol is a type of fat that is needed by the body. It is made up of cholesterol from the food you eat and from cholesterol produced by your liver. A total cholesterol rate of 200mg/dl or lower is desirable, while a total cholesterol score of 240 doubles the possibility of a heart attack. In order to have a thorough understanding of your cholesterol number you also need to know your high density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol and your triglyceride levels.
An HDL level that is higher than 50mg/dl and a triglyceride level lower that 150 mg/dl are desirable scores. If there is too much LDL cholesterol in the blood it can build up and form plaque on the inner walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and brain. Acceptable LDL scores vary according to a persons current risk of heart disease. For example anyone with a high risk of heart disease including people with diabetes need to reduce the LDL value to less than 100mg/dl while an LDL value of less than 160mg/dl is acceptable for someone with a low risk. Your healthcare provider can assist you in managing your cholesterol through diet, exercise or medication when needed.
The Franklin County Health Department (FCHD) is inviting everyone in Franklin County to join them in wearing red on Friday. It doesnt matter whether you wear a red dress, tie, sweater or a ribbon; just wear red to help spread the message about women and heart disease.
For more information on making healthy lifestyle choices such as quitting smoking, eating healthy and exercising or for more information about Wear Red Day contact the FCHD Community Health Education Team at 564-5559.
Debbie Howes Fleming is the health education director with the Franklin County Health Department. For more information about column topics or to contact her or the FCHD Community Health Education team, call 564-5559.