How Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference in Men’s Heart Health

Cardiologists at NYU Langone Medical Center regularly track three important numbers to help keep men healthy including blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index (BMI).

As Father’s Day approaches, it’s a good time for men and their families to recognize their risk for cardiovascular diseases and to understand specific numbers they can monitor to maintain their health.

These numbers are particularly important since cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among men in the U.S. and claims over 600,000 lives annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Preventive care is a key focus area for clinical research and patient education at NYU Langone’s Cardiac and Vascular Institute,” said Stuart Katz, MD, the Helen L. and Martin S. Kimmel Professor of Advanced Cardiac Therapeutics.

“By empowering men to make small, manageable changes in their lifestyle, such as exercising and eating healthier, they can significantly improve target health numbers such as blood pressure and cholesterol, and help prevent conditions like heart disease, which affect a large number of men.”

Men should start by understanding the three key numbers that are important to their cardiovascular health and work with their doctor to monitor these numbers. Every man should do the following:

— Get blood pressure checked. About one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure. Blood pressure is typically recorded as two numbers. The systolic number (often the higher of the two numbers) measures heart muscle contractions and the diastolic number measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats. According to the American Heart Association, a healthy blood pressure should be less than 120/80 mm Hg for adults aged 20 or over.
— Know “good” and “bad” cholesterol levels. High cholesterol can lead to heart disease and other cardiovascular problems. Cholesterol is often reported as a single number referred to as “total cholesterol,” but there are both good and bad forms of cholesterol. Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) and tests include numbers for HDL (good) cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol. A cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL puts people at lower risk for coronary heart disease.
— Keep track of Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is calculated using height and weight. BMI can provide a reliable indicator of health for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems. A BMI of 25 or higher puts people at greater risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and a variety of other preventable problems.

There are many proactive steps men can take to lessen their risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Increasing physical exercise, limiting salt and alcohol intake and managing stress are all important lifestyle changes that men can make to reduce their health risks. Dr. Katz notes, “Men don’t have to make these changes all at once. Even making small changes can lead to big improvements in heart, and overall health.”

About Joel Whitaker

Joel Whitaker is a long-time professional journalist (Tampa Bay Times, Wall Street Journal, Philadelphia Bulletin, Institutional Investor, executive newsletters) and Catholic convert. He is the RCIA coordinator for his parish.
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