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    The Center for Health Disparities Research at the Medical University of South Carolina is focused on eliminating racial/ethnic, socioeconomic and rural/urban disparities in health.

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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. People in South Carolina are more likely to have these issues than people in many other states. And 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 main doctor. If you need a specialist, the MUSC Heart and Vascular Center has some of the world’s top experts. It also offers lots of patient resources online, such as quizzes, recipes and a Heart Health library. Plus, the center has a Cardiovascular Health Program to help prevent problems.

For a list of heart attack signs, visit the MUSC Chest Pain Center page. (Call 9-1-1 for fast help if you 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. Talk to your doctor first if you have heart problems or want to make big changes in your workout.
  • 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 about how to lose weight by increasing your activity level and changing what you eat and drink. For example, you can cut back on sugar.
  • Get checked – See your doctor for a well visit each year and have regular checks of your blood pressure and cholesterol when your doctor tells you.
  • 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.

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 tell 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 in 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 to pump blood through your body. It is not the same thing as a heart attack – when part of the heart is damaged or dies because blood flow is 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. It includes outreach services for heart failure patients in Columbia, Greenville, Florence and Bluffton.

Contact Us

Rutledge Tower
135 Rutledge Ave., Room 280
Charleston, SC 29425-5930
Phone: 843-792-0906
Fax: 843-876-1201