The Denver Post recently reported that huge numbers of people in Colorado postponed appointments for everything from cancer screenings to wellness checks during the pandemic, causing concern among health officials about who missed care and what services they missed.

According to the Post, “Colorado had the fourth-steepest drop in cervical cancer screening rates from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the fourth quarter of 2021, and the sixth-largest drop in breast cancer screening rates in the same period. In both cases, the state moved from the top half of performers in getting its residents screened to the bottom half.” While healthcare appointments started to rebound at the end of last year, many patients are not caught up on routine screenings and appointments.

Maybe that doesn’t sound like something to worry about here in Telluride, where most of us consider ourselves pretty healthy. But did you know that nearly half of all Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease? That means that if there are two of us walking down the street, chances are that one of us has high blood pressure. And it’s not just older people. Nearly 1 in 4 people between 20-44 have high blood pressure too.

The silent killer

High blood pressure is called a “silent killer” because most people have no symptoms. That’s why getting regular blood pressure checks is so important, even if you are a healthy, active Telluride local. Staying active doesn’t mean you aren’t at risk of developing high blood pressure. Other factors like diet, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, smoking or not getting enough sleep can also play in. When you add in these factors, it suddenly seems a lot more likely that many of us in Telluride could be at risk of developing high blood pressure.

According to the CDC, uncontrolled blood pressure can increase the risk of a long list of complications later in life, including heart attacks, kidney problems, eye problems and dementia. If you are over 20, we recommend getting your blood pressure checked at least every two years. If you have certain risk factors or a family history of heart disease, you will want to get it checked annually. Fortunately, there are simple lifestyle changes and medication that can help lower your blood pressure and keep it at manageable levels.

High Cholesterol

Another risk factor for heart disease is high cholesterol. It can contribute to plaque buildup, which leads to clogged arteries, and that can be a big problem. There are typically no signs that someone has high cholesterol. The only way to know for sure is to get your cholesterol checked. We can do that with a simple blood test here at TRMC. If you are over 20 and in good health, you should get this test every few years. If you are at risk for heart disease, we recommend getting the test when you come in for your annual physical.

Reduce your risk

Lifestyle behaviors can have a huge impact on heart disease. We are what we eat, and a diet that’s high in saturated fats can be a problem. Getting regular physical activity can lower your risk, but not getting enough exercise can contribute to high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. Too much alcohol and smoking can increase your risk, so let us know if you need help moderating those behaviors. Genetics can play a role as well. That’s why we talk with you about your family history, so we can factor that into your care plan.

Here are some simple steps to help you stay heart healthy:

Eat healthy. Your mom was right. Eat your vegetables. Fruit, whole grains, poultry and fish are also good. Too much salt can be bad, and stay away from sugar.

Stay active.  If you live in Telluride, that’s easy to do. But you don’t have to be an extreme athlete to be heart healthy. Walking every day is a great start. We’d love to help you put together an exercise plan that’s right for you.

Watch your weight.  We can help you put together a weight plan that’s tailored to your needs, age, health history and body type.

Stress less. Managing your mental health is just as important as managing your physical health. We all get stressed out. Our behavioral health team can help you understand how to control your stress instead of letting your stress control you.

Drink less. Quit smoking.  We know it’s hard. You don’t have to do this alone. We can help.

Take your meds.  If you’ve been prescribed medication for high blood pressure or high cholesterol, don’t forget to take it. Make it part of your daily routine.

If you are one of those people who fell behind on their medical care during the pandemic, American Heart Month is a great time to schedule an appointment. Call us at 970-728-3848 and we can get you set up. See you soon!