By: Malinda Scannell, Nurse Practitioner
February is Heart Month. It is an important time to Know Your Numbers! Blood pressure, Cholesterol,
Blood Sugar, and Body Mass Index (BMI)-these measurements help to identify your risk of heart disease.
Additional risk factors include family history, diet, and smoking.
Heart disease remains a major cause of illness and death globally. The American Heart Association
(AHA) reports cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke combined) kills about 2,300 persons a
day – more than all forms of cancer combined. However, seventy-two percent of Americans don’t
consider themselves at risk for heart disease. The AHA urges people to take care of their hearts year-
round. Heart disease is preventable.
Experts recommend cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk evaluation and prevention planning starting at age
20, sooner if you have any history of CVD. A CVD risk assessment offers one the opportunity to both
identify their CVD risk factors and to develop management strategies of specific and overall risks to
prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.
University Health Services (UHS) can provide you with a personalized health screening to determine
your risk factors for cardiovascular disease. From this assessment, the providers at UHS will work with
you to establish a plan to limit your risk and prevent illness.
Utilizing the American Heart Association’s Life Simple 7 – the seven most important predictors of heart
health, your risk for cardiovascular disease could be lowered. Lowering your risk for heart disease, also
reduces your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, stress and depression.
What is Life’s Simple 7? They include measures to eat better, get active, lose weight (if needed),
manage blood pressure, control cholesterol, reduce blood sugar and stop smoking. A healthy diet is key
to fighting CVD. Eating a diet low in sodium and fats (both saturated and trans fats); consuming 2 fruit
and 3 vegetable servings each day; avoiding red and processed meats; adding fish 2-3 times a week; and
limiting sugar and other sweeteners is recommended. Another cornerstone to maintaining and
improving cardiovascular health is physical activity. Start moving – 2 ½ hours a week or 30 minutes a
day for 5 days a week of moderate activity, such as a brisk walk or active yoga, is needed. Over half of
adults do not meet these minimum activity requirements. Adults who are overweight (BMI = 25-29.9) or
obese (BMI > 30) are at greater risk of CVD. Weight loss of 5-10% of one’s body weight has been shown
to make a difference. Hypertension, blood pressure > 130/80, is another modifiable risk for CVD.
Elevated cholesterol and blood sugar are additional risks that can be managed. If you smoke or vape,
quitting will reduce your risk. There are many resources available to help one quit.
Join me in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. The most important way to prevent heart disease is
to practice a healthy lifestyle throughout one’s life. The earlier you put healthy lifestyle practices into
place, the better you are able to lower your risk of disease.
Prevention is intervention for a healthy heart.
Get to know your numbers. Start a plan of action today. Call Health Services for an appointment to
assess your cardiovascular risk and to assist you in developing a healthy lifestyle plan. The number to
call is 207-780-5411.
Malinda Scannell, Nurse Practitioner
University Health and Counseling Services