Archie's Message about Heart Health

So many spouses roll their eyes when talking about their mother-in-law, but not me. I’m lucky in that Olivia’s mom was true family to me, a special part of our family. We lost her to heart disease when she was only middle aged, and I can’t help but wonder if we could have enjoyed more time with her, had medical science then been what it is now.

Anything to do with the heart is frightening – and rightfully so, since heart disease is the #1 killer in Louisiana when it comes to diseases. The good news is – there’s so much more we can do now to cope with, delay or even stop heart disease, if we’re proactive. That means taking the time to look at your risk factors and do something about the most dangerous ones.

“Knowledge is power, so you should get a handle on the risk factors you face right away,” advises Thibodaux Regional Health System’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Coordinator, Rachel Terracina RN, BSN, CCRP. “The American Heart Association recommends beginning heart disease prevention early in life, starting by assessing your risk factors and working to keep them low. The sooner you know and manage your risk factors, the better your chances of leading a heart healthy life.”

Here are a few common risk factors that inflate your chances of developing heart disease.

  • Obesity or a high Body Mass Index
  • High Blood Pressure: greater than 120/80
  • Diabetes: WBG <120, HbgA1c <7or lower
  • High Cholesterol or Dyslipidemia: TC<200, TG <150, HDL>65, LDL <130
  • Lack of Exercise
  • Smoking

If someone is overweight or obese, they’re forcing their body to service and carry more of a load than it should be handling. “Excess weight raises blood pressure, blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It also lowers HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It can make diabetes more likely to develop, too,” Terracia says. “Lifestyle changes that help you maintain a 3-5% weight loss usually translate to meaningful improvements in blood glucose, triglycerides, and risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Greater weight loss can even help reduce your blood pressure and improve blood cholesterol.”

Physical activity doesn’t just make you feel good in terms of an exercise high. It triggers changes in your body that help strengthen your heart muscle and prevent heart disease and stroke. So, how much should you be exercising if you’re doing it to be healthier, not necessarily to change your physical look on the outside? A minimum of three times a week for 45 or 60 minutes. Terracina says a lack of exercise is defined as less than 150 minutes of physical activity a week.

We all know smoking is unhealthy, but how bad is it exactly when it comes to specifically affecting one’s heart? The chances of a smoker suffering a heart attack are five times greater than those of a non-smoker.

If you’re wondering what’s happening on the inside of your body, how your heart is doing, Thibodaux Regional’s Heart and Vascular Center offers screenings and the most up-to-date medical expertise available to answer those questions. Lipid profiles, blood pressure checks and glucose readings are all like stat sheets or box scores to help you know where your heart ranks in this game of survival. Now, if it turns out you’ve got a troubling score somewhere, you can do something about it before the consequences catch up to you.

Thibodaux Regional’s Heart and Vascular Center also offers a state-of-the-art Cardiovascular Rehabilitation program to help people mitigate significant risk factors before something happens or to enable current cardiac patients recover more fully.

“Our Cardiovascular Rehabilitation program pairs registered nurses with doctors, dieticians, therapists and pharmacists to help people understand their disease,” Terracina says. “Those experts provide patients with education, lifestyle management guidance and a safe but effective exercise program personalized for their specific medical needs. The journey through cardiovascular rehabilitation helps patients by delivering individualized healthcare management and guidance through all the phases of their healthcare crisis.”

Medication, simple changes in your diet, losing weight or bumping up your physical activity level can add years to your life. There’s no better time to start now than in the month of February, since after all, it is Heart Health Month.


Archie Manning