Make lifestyle changes to control cholestorol, blood pressure

July 14, 2003|by Christine L. Moats

It is important to be aware of the many factors that may lead to coronary heart disease and stroke. While we cannot control age, gender or heredity, we can control other factors. Two of the most important are high blood pressure and high cholesterol. You should have them both checked regularly.

When you have your blood pressure taken, it will be measured by two numbers. The first number, the systolic pressure, is the pressure of your blood flow when your heart beats. The second, the diastolic pressure, is the pressure between heartbeats. Higher blood pressure numbers can mean that blood is having a hard time flowing due to reasons such as narrowed arteries or stiffened vessels. If your blood pressure is high, there may be symptoms. In fact, many people have this disease for years without knowing it. Having high blood pressure doesn't mean you are tense, nervous or hyperactive. You can be a calm, relaxed person and still have hypertension. The only way to find out if you have this disease is to have your blood pressure checked.


To check your cholesterol, you will need to have a blood test. Cholesterol comes from your liver, which produces it, and your diet. Low-density lipoprotein, also known as "bad" cholesterol, is the major blood cholesterol. It can build up in your arterial walls, causing vessel-clogging plaques to form. High-density lipoprotein, also known as "good" cholesterol, seems to protect against heart attack by carrying cholesterol away from arteries.

According to the American Heart Association, cholesterol in adults older than 20 should be measured at least once every five years. High cholesterol puts people at risk for heart disease and stroke.

There are some lifestyle changes you can make to lower cholesterol and blood pressure:

  • Eat a low-fat, low-salt diet.

  • Exercise 30 to 40 minutes most days of the week.

  • Lose weight.

  • Quit smoking to reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke.

  • Lower your alcohol intake.

  • Many medicines also can help reduce and control high blood pressure and cholesterol. Discuss this option with a physician.

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Christine L. Moats is a wellness coordinator at Washington County Hospital.

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