Heart disease has haunted generations of Robin Drummond's family. "I have a
family history of
heart disease on both sides," says the 55-year-old African-American and
resident of Hammond, La. "I've had uncles, aunts, and grandparents who've died
heart attacks and heart disease, and two of my mother's brothers died four
months apart. One had a heart attack in church, and four months later, one had
a heart attack in the post office."
When Drummond's father succumbed to heart disease...
One of the strongest predictors for heart disease is measured in two numbers
-- your blood
pressure. You hear the numbers, but do you know what they mean?
The first or top number is systolic blood pressure -- the
pressure of blood against artery walls during a heartbeat, when the heart is
The second number is diastolic blood pressure -- the
pressure of blood against artery walls between heartbeats, when the heart is
filling with blood.
Normal blood pressure is 119/79 or below.
Prehypertension is 120 to 139 (systolic) and/or 80 to 89 (diastolic).
Do these numbers seem a bit lower than you remember? What's considered a
normal blood pressure was redefined in May 2003 when guidelines were revised to
include a new category -- prehypertension.
Experts recommend that people with prehypertension -- an estimated 45
million men and women -- make heart-healthy lifestyle changes to reduce their
risk of blood pressure complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage.
Probably the most familiar heart disease risk factor, cholesterol is a type of fat that is an essential
nutrient for your body. However, too much cholesterol -- or not enough of the
good type of cholesterol -- floating around in your blood increases your risk
for hardening of the arteries that can lead to heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Cholesterol is considered abnormal when:
Total cholesterol is 200 or higher.
HDL or "good" cholesterol level is less
LDL or "bad" cholesterol is more than 160
(or lower if you have risk factors) -- with 190 and above being very
high. However, the lower the LDL, the better. An LDL less than 100 is
considered optimal; 100 to 129 is near optimal; 130 to 159 is borderline