Health & Wellness News

The ABCS of Heart Health

by Claire Olgren, MD

In 2012, the Center for Disease Control set the lofty goal of preventing one million heart attacks and strokes in five years through their Million Hearts Campaign. Although they did not hit the mark, significant strides were accomplished, so in 2017, they introduced “Million Hearts 2022.” Through educational efforts around the ABCS of cardiovascular health, they once again hope to save a million lives. Do you know your ABCS?

A stands for aspirin if appropriate. Some people should take a baby aspirin each day to help prevent a heart attack or stroke. During your next wellness exam, be sure to ask your doctor if daily aspirin is right for you.

B is for blood pressure. Your blood pressure is a measure of how hard your heart has to work to pump blood through your body. The American Heart Association published new “normal” last year, increasing the number of Americans who should be treated by hundreds of thousands. Do you know your blood pressure? Be sure to have it checked at all doctor visits!

C represents cholesterol. The American Heart Association’s slogan is “Check, Change, Control your cholesterol.” The first step is to talk to your doctor about checking your cholesterol through a blood test. Change refers to what you can do to increase your good and decrease the bad cholesterol. Controlling your cholesterol begins with nutritious eating, maintaining a healthy weight, regular physical activity, limiting alcohol use, and not smoking.

S symbolizes smoking cessation. Tobacco has harmful effects not only on our lungs, but also on our heart and blood vessels. Lots of support is available for those ready to quit. Check with your provider about options that are appropriate for you.

The ABCS can seem so basic that it is easy to overlook how important each letter is. My husband, an emergency medicine physician, had mildly elevated cholesterol and borderline high blood pressure for years. He exercised regularly and did not smoke so never thought at the age of 56 he would have a heart attack. Fortunately, he was at work, so he received excellent care, and he was physically fit. In just three months, he made a complete recovery. Baby aspirin, blood pressure checks, and cholesterol management are now an integral part of our daily routine. In our 50s, we re-learned the importance of the ABCS.

How about you? Is it time to reacquaint yourself with the ABCS?

Claire earned a B.S. from Boston College and an M.D. from the University of Massachusetts. For the past 25 years, she has worked in primary care and, along-side her husband, raised their children in western Michigan. Currently Claire serves as physical health faculty on one of CPG’s Provincial Retiree Gathering Teams.