Numbers for a healthy heart

Numbers to follow

Ladies, do you know your numbers? No, not your bust size, waist size or dress size, but the numbers that will help you look great in that ideal outfit.  We’re talking

Yeah, it’s those numbers. This is not an “eat right and exercise story.” It is a personal account of a fellow student who had a scare because her numbers were “off the chain” but not in a good way.

“Contrary to popular belief, heart disease is the No.1 killer of women, not cancer,” said Brandy Marshall, registered nurse and women’s program manager at Cheyenne VA Medical Center.

In addition to being the month for love, February was also the month for heart health. The American Heart Association’s (AHA) Go Red for Women Campaign was highlighted for a reason. Each year the AHA brings awareness and knowledge to women and caregivers about heart disease and stroke. I participated in the Go Red campaign at work by casually strolling down to the women’s clinic to get my blood pressure checked.

Thinking I was doing them a favor by showing up, boy, was I in for a shock! I was hooked up to the monitor, and the squeezing of the armband began. First, I saw the look on the nurse’s face when she said, “The numbers are high. Let’s do a manual check.”  Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze of the manual inflator. Tick, tick, tick of the clock on the wall as she did the calculations. Still high. How would you feel if your numbers were 134/100? I tried to justify the numbers by recounting. I had just walked the length of the building and had an animated conversation with a co-worker before entering the clinic.

They were not buying any of that and sprang into action with the following:

Considering optimal blood pressure should be less than 120/80 there was a serious need for concern.  I could have a stroke any minute with numbers that high. Talk about a walking time bomb.

You had best believe I had follow-up appointments scheduled with my doctor and fasting labs. When the nurse demonstrated the simple use of the machine, the numbers were even higher. I was probably a bit anxious by then (a small and insignificant factor), but the bottom line is the numbers were too high.

At risk for stroke or be in the early stages of heart disease, at my age? Sure, I look healthy and feel pretty good on the outside, but the inside of me is telling a different story. My heart is working much harder than it should be.

Remember when you were dating, and you felt something just wasn’t right with the relationship? Things were a little off between the two of you and you weren’t quite sure where the relationship was going, and little signs here and there sent up red flags that made you cautious but you stayed with him anyway? Well, guess what? Your heart should be more than the monitor of your feelings for a new beau. The writing is on the walls, literally, of your heart that is.

Trust me, the signs are there.  A heart attack or stroke may be deadly, but they are not sneaky.  Health fairs and free blood pressure testing are offered for participants, not the sponsors.  They are already aware of the importance of “Know Your Numbers.”
According to research at the AHA: Why is heart health important?

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death of women. It kills more women than all forms of cancer combined. In the United States, a woman dies of a heart attack, stroke or another form of cardiovascular disease every minute. Approximately one of every three women experiences some form of cardiovascular disease, and most of those cases are preventable by leading a heart-healthy lifestyle.

How can you achieve a heart-healthy lifestyle?

The best way to prevent heart disease is to live a healthy lifestyle. You can reduce the chances of heart disease through a healthy diet and exercise and quitting smoking if you’re a current smoker. Managing stress and limiting alcohol consumption can also help keep you healthy. In partnership with your health care provider, you should discuss your risk for heart disease, have your cholesterol and triglycerides checked, and know your blood pressure levels. These simple steps can help prevent heart disease.

How do you treat heart disease, and what are risk factors for getting heart disease?

Only your health care provider can determine the best method of treatment for heart disease. The course of treatment will depend on the type and severity of heart disease. Potential treatments may include lifestyle changes, medicines, cardiac rehabilitation or surgical procedures. Smoking, high LDL cholesterol and high blood pressure are the key risk factors for heart disease. Forty-nine percent of

Americans have at least one of these risk factors. Other medical conditions put women at a higher risk for heart disease including:

What does Going Red for Women really mean?

The AHA is committed to empowering women to live a heart-healthy lifestyle.  The Go Red campaign stands for:

Get Your Numbers: Ask your doctor to check your BP and cholesterol.

Own Your Lifestyle: Stop smoking, lose weight, exercise and eat healthy.

Realize Your Risk: We think it won’t happen to us, but heart disease kills one in three women.

Educate Your Family: Make healthy food choices for you and your family. Teach your kids the importance of staying active.

Don’t Be Silent: Tell every woman you know that heart disease is the No. 1 killer. Raise your voice at

My primary care provider, Dr. Lopa Zavari said (in her drill sergeant voice), ”You either take the steps to bring your numbers down or the other option is that when you have a stroke, we will bring you in and stick a tube into every orifice that you have.”

Even at this point I tried to bargain with her about working out six days instead of seven because of the Sabbath. She said: “No, seven. God will understand because he wants you healthy.”

I couldn’t argue with her on that point. Seven days it is. (What happened to a rest day?)

All of this happened to me about six days ago. My numbers are already down.  For starters, I cut out the junk food and increased my physical activity and water intake. Although I am unsure whether the effect of the pills have kicked in yet, I take a tablet for blood pressure every morning and monitor my BP each day, twice a day.

Oh, yes, almost forgot, I must weigh in at the clinic every Friday. “We’ll be your weight watcher.” I have a follow-up appointment in two weeks,” Zavari said.

Now, about YOUR numbers.

Cheyenne VA Medical Center