Cardiovascular Health

Your cardiovascular system is made up of your heart and blood vessels, and is responsible for transporting oxygen, nutrients, hormones, and waste products throughout the body. A healthy cardiovascular system ensures a good balance of nutrients and optimal brain and body function.

Cardiovascular disease refers to several types of conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels, also known as the circulatory system. Some common cardiovascular diseases and conditions include:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • hypertension (i.e. high blood pressure)

Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the United States, major causes of disability and the principal causes of cardiovascular disease death.

Who’s at Risk?

Although cardiovascular disease affects people of all ages, races and backgrounds, there are certain chronic conditions and lifestyle factors that put people at a higher risk. For example: high blood pressure, diabetes and high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL-cholesterol), also known as “bad cholesterol,” are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In addition, unhealthy behaviors such as tobacco use, a poor diet, physical inactivity, obesity and alcohol abuse can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and other vascular conditions. In some cases, people with a family history of cardiovascular disease share common environments and risk factors that increase their likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke. Combine those genetic factors with unhealthy lifestyle choices, and the risk of cardiovascular disease increases even more.

Can It Be Prevented?

There are several things people can do to prevent cardiovascular disease – and it starts with making healthy choices and managing medical conditions. This includes:

  • Eating a healthy diet. Focus on foods low in sodium, added sugar, and saturated fats and trans fats.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Regular Exercise. Physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight and lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Not smoking. Cigarette smoking has a great impact on the risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • Limiting Alcohol Use. Drinking too much alcohol can cause high blood pressure.

It is also important for individuals with existing medical conditions that affect cardiovascular health to manage and treat these conditions with the help of their doctor, nurse or other health care professional. Monitoring cholesterol levels, blood pressure and managing conditions such as diabetes can help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.

In summary:

  • Cardiovascular health refers to the health of the heart and blood vessels, also known as the circulatory system
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease and stroke are common cardiovascular conditions and diseases
  • People of all ages and backgrounds are at risk for poor cardiovascular health
  • Prevention of cardiovascular disease is possible and dependent on the control of various risk factors, including unhealthy lifestyle habits and preexisting medical conditions
  • Genetic factors can also contribute to poor cardiovascular health
  • It is important to have an open dialogue with health care providers about the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)

Optimal range: 1 - 20 mm/hr

The erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR or sed rate) is a relatively simple, inexpensive, non-specific test that has been used for many years to help detect inflammation associated with conditions such as infections, cancers, and autoimmune diseases.

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HDL

Optimal range: 39 - 180 mg/dL

High-density lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol is known to decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke by removing “bad” cholesterol from the blood. It is typically assessed through a lipid profile, which measures “good” cholesterol, “bad” cholesterol, and total cholesterol. A healthcare professional may order a lipid profile when an individual is at an increased risk for heart disease or routinely in healthy adults to monitor cardiovascular health.

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hsCRP

Optimal range: 0 - 0.8 mg/L

C-reactive protein (CRP) is a general indicator of inflammation in the body. The inflammation can be acute and caused by infection or injury. Inflammation can also be chronic, which typically points toward more serious diseases.  High-sensitivity CRP (hs-CRP) tests are commonly ordered to determine your risk of cardiovascular disease.

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LDL

Optimal range: 0 - 99 mg/dL

Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), or “bad” cholesterol, is known to increase risk of heart attack and stroke when levels become elevated in the blood. LDL-C is measured as a part of a lipid profile, which is used to determine your risk for developing cardiovascular disease. LDL-C can usually be controlled through a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. 

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LDL/HDL Cholesterol Ratio

Optimal range: 0.5 - 3 Ratio

LDL/HDL cholesterol ratio is the ratio of two types of lipids in the blood. LDL stands for low density lipoprotein or “bad cholesterol” and HDL stands for high density lipoprotein or “good cholesterol.”

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Non-HDL Cholesterol

Optimal range: 0 - 159 mg/dL

Total Cholesterol

Optimal range: 100 - 199 mg/dL

Your total cholesterol score is calculated using the following equation: HDL + LDL + 20 percent of your triglyceride level. With HDL cholesterol, higher levels are better. Low HDL cholesterol puts you at a higher risk for heart disease. With LDL cholesterol, lower levels are better. High LDL cholesterol puts you at a higher risk for heart disease.

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Total Cholesterol/HDL Ratio

Optimal range: 0 - 5 Ratio

The total cholesterol /HDL ratio is the proportion of one type of cholesterol to all the other cholesterol in the blood. Total cholesterol includes three substances HDL, LDL, and VLDL. 

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Triglycerides

Optimal range: 0 - 149 mg/dL

Triglycerides are a type of fat and the primary way our bodies store unused energy. While triglycerides are necessary for a healthy life, excessive amounts can put you at a higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease. Typically, a healthcare professional will look at triglyceride levels along with high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein, and total cholesterol to determine your risk of heart disease.

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VLDL

Optimal range: 2 - 36 mg/dL

VLDL stands for very low-density lipoprotein. VLDL carries triglycerides in the blood and, to a lesser extent, cholesterol. High levels of VLDL are associated with a type of blood vessel disease called atherosclerosis.

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