Heart Health. An In Great Health eNewsletter from Avera.
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Thank you for subscribing to Heart Health, an Avera eNewsletter that provides you with useful information about cardiac care and prevention. We believe a healthy lifestyle starts with a strong heart. To learn more about our services and community events, or to find a physician, visit www.Avera.org.

To your health,

The Avera Staff


Do you know your body mass index? How about your triglyceride levels? Keeping track of your body's health numbers can prevent serious health problems, including heart disease and strokes. The most important numbers to monitor are blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but knowing more can give you a more complete picture of your health.

For optimal heart health, Dr. Mark Gordon, cardiologist at North Central Heart Institute in Sioux Falls, S.D., recommends keeping track of the following potential risk factors.

Blood Pressure: An ideal blood pressure is 120/80. If the lower number (the diastolic number) is above 85, see your doctor.

Cholesterol: There are two types: HDL and LDL. A high level of HDL (60 mg/dL*) protects your heart by reducing LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol should be at 100 mg/dL or less to reduce your risk for heart disease.
Calcium Score: This measures the amount of plaque built up in the heart. A score of 0 indicates a very low chance of having a cardiac event. If you have a calcium score higher than 400, your doctor will want to do further tests.

Body Mass Index (BMI): The BMI compares your weight to your height. A healthy BMI is less than 25.

Triglycerides: High amounts of triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood) are a warning sign when combined with other risk factors such as glucose intolerance or cholesterol. Ideally, triglycerides should be less than 150 mg/dL.

*milligrams per deciliter

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Incorporating more omega-3 fatty acids into your meals is an ideal way to reduce triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood. A high level of triglycerides combined with other risk factors can increase your risk for heart disease.

The body needs omega-3s for heart health, brain development and growth. They're also anti-inflammatory, which is great for the heart, and they have been shown to lower the risk for chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis.

The body doesn't produce omega-3s, so we need to get them from our food. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna. Dr. Gordon suggests eating salmon or other fish high in omega-3s at least two or three times a week.

"Most people in the Midwest don't eat that much salmon," he adds. "The more salmon you eat, though, the fewer supplements you need to take."

If you don't eat enough salmon to get the omega-3s your body needs, Dr. Gordon recommends taking fish oil supplements. The important numbers to look for are the concentration of DHA and EPA in fish oil. The American Heart Association suggests that people with heart disease take fish oil capsules daily that have 1 gram of EPA and DHA. For most of his patients, Dr. Gordon recommends daily fish oil supplements that have 2 grams of EPA.

Fish oil does have side effects with some medications, so check with your doctor first before taking supplements.

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Click here to see a heart-healthy salmon recipe that's rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The Avera Heart Hospital's Healthy Kitchen features a variety of healthy recipes that have a "Prairie meets Mediterranean" approach.

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In Great Health online archive.

Heart Health is one in a series of Avera eNewsletters that gives readers valuable information about health and wellness at Avera facilities. It is not intended to replace personal medical advice, which should be obtained directly from a physician.