HAHRC BEATS: Pay attention to your heart

February is National Heart Awareness Month. Providence Hood River Heart & Vascular Institute and the American Heart Association remind you that heart disease is still the number one killer in the United States.

Family history of heart disease plays a role, but you can take action to lower your risks.

What are the top five ways to reduce your risk of heart disease?


“New studies show that walking just 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes a week is enough to reduce your risk of heart disease,” encourages Kris Wilhelm, exercise physiologist at Providence Hood River. “You don’t need any equipment; just a good pair of shoes.”

Control your cholesterol and triglycerides

Your total cholesterol should be under 200; LDL under 100; HDL 60+; triglycerides under 150.

“Cholesterol can often be controlled with simple lifestyle measures including a change in diet or exercise. For some, cholesterol-lowering medication may also be needed. Exercise can raise your HDL (good cholesterol), which helps to remove the LDL (bad cholesterol), in your arteries,” says cardiologist Kathy Grewe.

Although a diet high in trans-fat and saturated fat can contribute to high cholesterol, foods such as oatmeal, dried beans, soy protein and nuts can help lower cholesterol.

Keep your blood pressure in check

Ideal blood pressure is 120/80 or lower.

“Aerobic cardiovascular exercise has an immediate effect of lowering your blood pressure. Studies have shown that right after exercise, your arteries relax. Typically, you get a 5- to 10-point drop in resting blood pressure. Long term, exercise lowers your blood pressure on a regular basis,” offers Wilhelm.

Lose weight

Excess weight can raise your blood pressure, cholesterol, and risk for diabetes. Studies confirm a modest weight loss of 10 pounds reduces your risk for heart disease. If you lose just 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight, you may reduce your LDL cholesterol by 15 percent and your triglycerides 20 percent.

Stop smoking

“Thirty percent of heart attack deaths are directly related to smoking. Smoking emits toxins into the blood that can contribute to atherosclerosis or plaque. Smoking can increase blood pressure, which can cause a buildup of fatty substances in the arteries.

It’s not too late to stop smoking,” reassures Laney Gale, R.N. “If you have heart disease and you quit smoking, you can reduce your risk of having another heart attack.”


Not sure where to start? The Providence Hood River Cardiac Conditioning Center provides supervised exercise programs, diet counseling and education programs. The center provides a resource to those in the community for not only those with heart disease, but also those at risk for heart disease.

For more information, call 541-387-6326 or contact your physician for a referral.


HAHRC (Healthy Active Hood River County) works to make the healthy choice the easy choice in Hood River County. For more information call co-chair Lorena Sprager at 541-436-0317.

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