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Protect Your Heart

February 9, 2015
6 min. read


About Heart Disease

As we approach Valentine’s Day this week, it seems like a good time to talk about heart health. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common type of heart disease and is a very serious issue. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, it is “the #1 cause of death for both men and women [in the United States.]”1

A heart attack (often a result of coronary heart disease) happens when “the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked and the heart can’t get oxygen.”2

Heart attacks can come in many forms and the symptoms may vary, so it is important to recognize the most common symptoms:

Chest pain or discomfort
Upper body discomfort
Shortness of breath

Other signs include tiredness, nausea, or dizziness. For the full list and explanation, visit:

In last week’s post, Summit Cardiology shared some of the controllable risk factors associated with heart disease. This week, we would like to go more in-depth and talk about some ways to monitor these factors and stay healthy.

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors that increase your chances of developing CHD which can lead to a heart attack. Some factors such as age, family history, or having a history of preeclampsia are uncontrollable, but there are many that can be controlled by developing healthy lifestyle habits. For more information about risk factors, visit

Here are some major risk factors for a heart attack that you can control:

Smoking harms many of your body’s organs, including your heart and blood vessels. This damage can increase your risk of atherosclerosis (a build-up of plaque in your arteries) and coronary heart disease. For more information about this, visit tips on how to quit smoking, check out our previous blog post
High blood pressure
It is important to know your blood pressure numbers so you know whether you are at risk for CHD or a variety of other health problems. Blood pressure numbers are often written with the systolic number above or before the diastolic number, such as 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury). The chart below shows the categories for blood pressure levels in adults. For more information about high blood pressure, visit can meet with your doctor to determine your blood pressure and whether you are at risk for high blood pressure.

Category Systolic (top number) Diastolic (bottom number)
Normal blood pressure Less than 120 mmHg And Less than 80 mmHg
Prehypertension 120–139 mmHg Or 80–89 mmHg
High blood pressure
     Stage 1 140–159 mmHg Or 90–99 mmHg
     Stage 2 160 mmHg or higher Or 100 mmHg or higher


High blood cholesterol
“Cholesterol travels through your bloodstream in small packages called lipoproteins…[There are] two kinds of lipoproteins [that] carry cholesterol throughout your body: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Having healthy levels of both types of lipoproteins is important.”3 The charts below show the category levels for total, LDL, and HDL cholesterol levels. For more information, visit should meet with your doctor to check your cholesterol levels and see if you may have high blood cholesterol.

Total Cholesterol Level Category
Less than 200 mg/dL Desirable
200–239 mg/dL Borderline high
240 mg/dL and higher High
LDL Cholesterol Level Category
Less than 100 mg/dL Optimal
100–129 mg/dL Near optimal/above optimal
130–159 mg/dL Borderline high
160–189 mg/dL High
190 mg/dL and higher Very high
HDL Cholesterol Level Category
Less than 40 mg/dL A major risk factor for heart disease
40–59 mg/dL The higher, the better
60 mg/dL and higher Considered protective against heart disease


Overweight and obesity
“The terms ‘overweight’ and ‘obesity’ refer to body weight that’s greater than what is considered healthy for a certain height… Being overweight or obese puts you at risk for many health problems.”4 These include coronary heart disease (CHD) and high blood pressure.The most useful measure for determining whether you are classified as overweight is body mass index (BMI), which is calculated from your height and weight. The below chart shows the levels for each BMI category. For more information on obesity, visit:

BMI Category
18.5–24.9 Normal weight
25.0–29.9 Overweight
30.0 or greater Obese


An unhealthy diet
An unhealthy diet could be, for example, a diet high in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Eating healthy can help lower or control the risk factors that lead to heart disease.Here are some tips toward healthy eating:

1. Eat Heart Healthy: Eat a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy and lean proteins. Be sure to consume the appropriate number of calories for your specific characteristics.
2. Eat Smart: Change your perception of how and what you eat; try using smaller plates to control portions and chewing at a slower pace.
3. Choose Healthy Snacks: Enjoy healthy treats between meals that fit into your diet, such as granola or fruit and vegetables.
4. Dine Out the Healthy Way: Control your portion size by splitting your serving into smaller parts; ask for healthier options, such as grilled instead of fried foods; add fewer condiments to your meals.
5. Find Heart-Healthy Menus to Enjoy: Check out some heart-healthy recipes at:

For more information, visit:

Lack of routine physical activity
Adding more physical activity to your day doesn’t have to be a challenge. Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Aim for a reasonable level of activity: Try incorporating 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, at least 10 minutes at a time.
2. Don’t make excuses: Find fun and easy ways to be active throughout the day by pairing it with existing hobbies or routines.
3. Include these three types of activity: 1) aerobics, 2) resistance training, 3) flexibility.
4. Find what’s best for you: Do you work better alone or in groups? Inside or outside? In the morning or evening?
5. Stay Active: Try new activities so you don’t get bored, set goals for yourself, and plan ahead.

For more information, visit:

High blood sugar (due to insulin resistance or diabetes)
Insulin resistance is “a condition in which the body produces insulin but does not use it effectively. When people have insulin resistance, glucose builds up in the blood instead of being absorbed by the cells, leading to type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.”5 For more information, visit: information on diabetes, please see:

If you already know your information for all of the above measurements, you can enter them in this risk calculator ( to predict your risk of having a heart attack in the next 10 years. As always, consult your doctor for more information or if you feel you are at serious risk of having a heart attack.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health.


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