Living with heart disease: what you need to know

The Wellness Center will continue to provide cholesterol and blood pressure screenings on Wednesdays throughout the semester. For more information and complete schedule, visit And continue reading for more information on the importance of knowing your numbers.

Do you know that two of the most important numbers for a person with heart disease are blood pressure and cholesterol levels? If you have heart disease, also called coronary artery disease (CAD), the most important things you can do to reduce the risk of heart attacks and other problems are keeping your cholesterol and blood pressure under control. Cholesterol is a type of fat (lipid) that is essential to the body. There are two types: HDL and LDL. LDL is the “bad” cholesterol. It contributes to the plaque (cholesterol, calcium, and other substances) that can build up in blood vessels, including those supplying the heart, brain, and legs. Typically, the LDL goal for people with heart disease is less than 100.

High blood pressure can damage your blood vessels, and it increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. You may feel well even when your blood pressure is high, so it is important to get it checked regularly. Blood pressure above 140/90 is considered high. If you have diabetes, getting your blood pressure below 130/80 significantly reduces your risk of heart-related complications.

What can you do to avoid problems if you have heart disease? Talk with your doctor about your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers and determine your target goals. If your numbers are higher than your target goals, you may need treatment. For example, your doctor may prescribe statins to lower your cholesterol or beta blockers for your blood pressure. Ask your doctor if you should take aspirin daily, which can reduce the risk of a heart attack. If you miss doses, experience side effects, or have problems taking your medication, contact your doctor immediately. Your doctor may be able to change your medication or adjust your dose. Making lifestyle choices can help reduce your risk of complications from heart disease. If you smoke, quitting will reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Eating a proper diet and getting regular exercise can lower cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce the risk of serious complications. Learning how to handle stress can also help.

David’s Story
After talking with his doctor about the need to control his blood pressure and cholesterol, David called MyHealthConnection to get help focusing on achieving his goals. Beth, a health coach, helped David understand what he could do to lower his cholesterol and blood pressure. “My doctor and I decided I should try medication,” he said. “Beth helped me understand how the medication, along with diet and exercise, could help me prevent a heart attack. She was just such a great help. I have actually achieved one goal already — I walk two miles a day with my wife.”

How to learn more?
If you have questions about cholesterol and blood pressure and want to learn more about how diet, exercise, and medications may help, call MyHealthConnection at 1-800-658-2750, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Health coaches are specially trained health care professionals such as nurses, dietitians, and respiratory therapists available to help you:
• Learn what each of your medications does and why each is important.
• Talk to a dietitian about how to follow a heart-healthy diet, even when dining out.
• Get tips for adding activity into your daily routine.
• Find out if our complimentary video about coronary artery disease is right for you.

Visit the MyHealthConnection online Dialog CenterSM at Select “Health Information,” then “Health CrossroadsSM.” By selecting “Coronary Heart Disease,” you can learn more, and hear real-life stories of other people living with heart disease. Also, choose Healthwise® Knowledgebase and search for “Coronary Artery Disease.”
MyHealthConnection can help you understand heart disease and support you in taking an active role in your health. Call a Health coach today to learn more.

This information was provided to you by NDPERS.
-- Amanda Eickhoff, Coordinator of Wellness, Wellness Center,, 777-0210