Heart Health

Taking care of your heart is a great way to stay healthy. Common problems linked to heart and vein health are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart failure. Some groups of people in South Carolina, such as African Americans, have a higher risk for heart problems than others.

You can talk about heart issues with your family doctor. If you need a specialist, the MUSC Heart and Vascular Center has some of the world’s top experts.

For a list of heart attack signs, visit the MUSC Chest Pain Center page. (Call 911 for fast help if you ever have signs of a heart attack.)

Tips for a healthy heart

  • Stay active – Exercise can be as easy as a fast walk. Or you can hike, run, swim, bike, dance, jump rope, play sports, or work out in a gym. Try to exercise 30 minutes a day, most days. You can work up to this by adding five minutes to your workout at a time. If you have heart problems or want to make big changes in your workout, talk to your doctor about it first.

  • Eat well – Heart healthy foods include vegetables, fruits, and lean sources of protein. Limit bad fats like those found in meat, fried foods, and some dairy products. People with high blood pressure should limit salt and sodium, too.

  • Keep a healthy weight – Extra weight can put you at risk for heart problems. Almost seven in 10 adults in South Carolina are too heavy. Get medical advice on how to lose weight by increasing your activity level and changing what you eat and drink. For example, you can cut back on the amount of sugar in your diet.

  • Get checked – See your doctor for a well visit each year and have regular checks of your blood pressure and cholesterol.

  • Don’t smoke – Smoking increases your chances for heart attack, stroke, and cancer. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to make quitting easier.

High Blood Pressure

About 1 in 3 people in South Carolina have been told by a doctor they have high blood pressure (hypertension). Others have it, but don’t know it.

High blood pressure is called “the silent killer” because it does not have signs that are easy to spot. The prevalence of high blood pressure in African Americans is among the highest in the world.

When your blood pressure is taken, you get two numbers. For example, 110 over 70 is written 110/70. The first number is called the systolic blood pressure. Below 120 is normal. The second number is called diastolic pressure. Below 80 is normal.

If either number is higher than normal, talk with your doctor about ways to lower your blood pressure.

High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of fat in your body. Some comes from food and some is made by your body.

There are different types of cholesterol. A test will show your levels. You will get four numbers:

  • Total cholesterol – You want this to be less than 200.

  • HDL (good cholesterol) – You want this to be more than 40.

  • LDL (bad cholesterol) – You want this to be less than 100.

  • Triglycerides (another kind of fat) – You want this to be less than 150.

When too much LDL cholesterol is in your blood, it can build up on the inner walls of arteries that take blood to the heart and brain. This puts you at risk for heart attack and stroke.

Heart Failure

Heart failure means your heart has become weak and has to work harder than normal to pump blood through your body. It is not the same thing as a heart attack, which is when part of the heart is damaged or dies because blood flow was blocked. But, a heart attack can lead to heart failure.

Risk factors for heart failure:

  • Heart attack

  • High blood pressure

  • Clogged arteries

  • Smoking

  • Drinking

  • Diabetes

  • Heart infection

  • Heart rhythm problems

  • Kidney problems

MUSC can help with its Advanced Heart Failure Program, which offers hope through medical and surgical therapy.