February is about more than just love

With Valentine’s Day being in February you see hearts everywhere: heart shaped candy, heart decorations, chocolates in a heart shaped box, and even heart shaped pizza. February is also American Heart Month. How can you take care of your heart?

Monitor your cholesterol

Your body makes HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol). The good cholesterol helps remove plaque which is a vital tool to protect your heart. The bad cholesterol undoes the good work and can clog your arteries. Your doctor can order blood work to check your cholesterol levels. 

If you had your blood work done and received the results, then you want to know what the numbers mean. Let’s break them down.

Total Cholesterol

An ideal total cholesterol is less than 200 mg/dL. If your number is between 200 and 239 it is borderline high, and a number 240 mg/dL or higher is considered high cholesterol. Having high cholesterol can double your risk of heart disease. 


Your LDL goal is less than 100 mg/dL. A number slightly higher in the 101-129 mg/dL range is near optimal. Any number between this and 160 is borderline high, but a number 160 and higher is high. You can make a plan with your doctor to lower your cholesterol. A plan to lower your cholesterol can include:

  • Heart-healthy diet which will limit the saturated and trans fats you consume.
  • Weight management
  • Exercising 30 mins a day or more on most days.

When a plan is not effective in lowering your cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe medications to get this condition better under control and protect your heart health.


If you are having trouble remembering which cholesterol is good vs bad, think of the “H” as meaning healthy. The HDL is helping your heart by carrying plaque out of your bloodstream and arteries. A healthy number for your HDL is 60mg/dL or higher. If your numbers aren’t in a desirable range, discuss these with your doctor. Other medications can interfere with your HDL.


You’ll also see a triglycerides number in your blood work. A number less than 150mg/dL is considered normal. A slightly higher number 151-199 mg/dL is borderline high, high is 200-499 mg/dL, and very high is over 500 mg/dL. Having a higher triglycerides level has been linked not only to heart disease but also to diabetes. To improve your triglycerides levels, consider:

  • Increase your exercise. Ideally you want to exercise 30 mins a day at least 5 days a week.
  • Lose weight. Think about calories in (eating) and calories out (exercise and movement throughout the day). Decreasing sugar intake will also help in this effort.
  • Eat healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These can be found in nuts, olive oil, and some fish. Limit unhealthy fats.
  • Reduce alcohol and limit it to one serving per day as alcohol can cause spikes in triglycerides levels. 

Taking care of heart health will help you to ensure you are around to spend more time with your loved ones. Healthstar Physicians is a multi-specialty physicians group with 27 locations in seven counties including three after hours clinics. We live and work right here in East Tennessee. We would love to provide care for your entire family. Reach out to us and set up an appointment. We accept most forms of health insurance. Contact us to find out more.