AVOID HEART DISEASE: Know your blood pressure, cholesterol

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You wake up one morning and feel pressure in your chest and then a sharp pain. Are you having a heart attack? You call 911 just to be safe. How did this happen or what you could have done to prevent it? Regular heart, cholesterol and blood pressure screenings can help you stay healthy. TRICARE covers heart disease screenings that include cholesterol and blood pressure checks.

Heart Disease

The heart pumps blood to the body to provide necessary oxygen and nourishment to keep us alive and healthy. When the heart can’t pump blood as well as it should or there’s reduced blood flow to the heart, it can lead to heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men (and women) in the U.S. Majority of the risk factors are those that we can control, modify or treat, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. If you don’t know if your blood pressure or cholesterol levels are in the healthy range, make sure to talk to your doctor to find out.

Blood Pressure Screening

High blood pressure often has no signs or symptoms until someone experiences a stroke or heart attack. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high blood pressure was a primary or contributing cause of death for more than 410,000 Americans in 2014. The only way to know if your blood pressure is high is to get it checked regularly. TRICARE recommends adults have their blood pressure checked at least once every two years. You’ll also get a blood pressure screening each time you visit your doctor.

Cholesterol Screening

People with high cholesterol have about twice the risk of heart disease as people with lower levels, according to CDC. Like high blood pressure, you may not be aware that your cholesterol level is too high until something is wrong because you experience no symptoms. That’s why it’s important to schedule regular visits with your doctor to get your cholesterol levels checked. TRICARE covers cholesterol testing as recommended by National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Most adults (age 20 and older) should have their cholesterol checked at least once every five years, according to NHLBI.

The good news is many of the same healthy lifestyle choices you make for controlling your cholesterol can also help prevent high blood pressure and lower your risk of heart disease such as:

• Eating healthy meals low in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium (salt) and added sugars.

• Getting regular physical activity.

• Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.

• Limiting alcohol intake. Men should have no more than two drinks containing alcohol a day.

• Avoiding smoking.

If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure or cholesterol, your doctor will work with you to come up with the best way to treat your condition. For more information about your heart-related benefits, visit the TRICARE website.