Keeping your heart healthy

HOUGHTON – Having a healthy heart might be the most important thing someone can do to prolong their life.

People took the first steps in doing just that at Portage Health’s Heart Health by the Numbers, which concluded Wednesday with a presentation by Dr. Thomas LeGalley at the Houghton High School auditorium.

The sixth annual activity included free blood screenings on Feb. 13 and 14 and checks of blood pressure, heart rate. The blood screenings tested for important health yardsticks: cholesterol, high- and low-density lipoproteins, blood glucose and triglycerides.

Angela Luskin, community health coordinator at Portage Health, said 140 people took part in this year’s screenings, which would otherwise cost them $200 to $300.

“Many people come here to pick up their results, and then Dr. LeGalley’s presentation will then focus on what the numbers mean and how to improve them, if need be,” she said.

Both the number of serious heart attacks and the rate of heart attack deaths are on the decline, LeGalley said. That’s due to improvements in prevention efforts, detection, and treatment.

LeGalley went over American Heart Association guidelines for the levels in the screening: blood pressure (140/90, or 130/80 for diabetic/kidney patients); weight (Body Mass Index of 18.5 to 24.9); LDL (lower than 100 milligrams/deciliter); triglycerides (under 200 mg/dl); and HDL (higher than 70 mg/dl).

People should get 30 minutes of physical activity a day, and exercise at least five days a week; that helps control weight, blood pressure and cholesterol. People should aim for a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, while controlling calories and sugars. And there should be no exposure to cigarette smoke, either first- or second-hand.

Doctors are growing better at detecting heart problems, LeGalley said. There are non-invasive procedures such as treadmill tests and perfusion, which measures how much heart is in the blood at rest and during exercise. There are also angiograms, in which X-ray imaging is used to look at blood flow in the heart. LeGalley displayed a sample before-and-after angiogram. The blood goes from visibly struggling to pass through to normal blood flow.

Coronary angioplasty and heart stents are becoming more successful at preventing further heart problems. Tools such as anticoagulants and blood pressure and cholesterol medications have also done well at managing outcomes.

Patients in need are also getting medical treatment sooner. LeGalley gave a recent example of a 62-year-old man in western Marquette County who complained of chest pain while doing yard work and became unresponsive. Bell EMS did a 12-lead on him and took him to the Marquette General Hospital Cath Lab, where he underwent an aspiration thrombectomy. The total door-to-device time was only 38 minutes.

“After ballooning the artery and putting a stent in, we restored normal blood flow to that vessel,” he said. “And because it was in that 90-minute to 120-minute time frame, there was virtually no serious damage to the heart muscle.”

A growing trend for combatting cholesterol is statins, which inhibit one of the key building blocks of cholesterol. It’s led to older treatments such as niacin being phased out. LeGalley said it’s also preferable to other popular treatments, such as apple cider vinegar and fish oil.

“Save your money,” he said. “Get more exercise.”

Luskin said the results have spurred many people to action. In one case, a person told Luskin her lipid profile inspired her to start exercising.

“A lot of good does come out of this event each year,” she said.

Adele Lypsinmaa of Hancock was happy she stayed for the presentation. She’s trying to take care of her health, including joining a gym last week.

“I am getting older, and it was free, and I just wanted to know where I stood,” she said. “I’d just like to live a healthier lifestyle.”