Heart Disease is the number one killer of women, yet there are still women who don't view it as a threat.
A few weeks ago while at an event for the American Heart Association someone pointed out to me that it's great that I'm eating well and working out, but they asked if I knew anything about my heart.
Of course, my answer was "no".
That forced me to learn more about my own heart health, and as women, how we can take care of ourselves and be on top of any problems before they happen.
Cardiovascular Disease kills 480-thousand women a year, that's about one per minute.
UW Health's Dr. James Stein is one of the leading preventative cardiologists in the country.
He says, "When we're talking about the risk of heart disease and stroke, we really look at the risk factors. One of the most important factors are cholesterol values."
Dr. Stein points out the cholesterol levels they look for in women are a bit different than what they look for in men.
"For women we like to see higher levels of HDL, the good cholesterol, and lower levels of triglycerides or fats," according to Dr. Stein.
With that in mind, I decided it was time that I know my numbers.
What I found, was somewhat surprising.
"Kim, when I look at your blood, I see your LDL is 93 and that is excellent. Many doctors would stop right there and tell you you're on the right track. But, I also see that your HDL is only 48 and that should be above 55. That means your risk of having a heart attack or developing heart disease in the next decade is 1/3 higher than it should be," Dr. Stein says.
Here's a look at the recommended cholesterol levels for women, according to the American Heart Association.
For women, a total cholesterol level less than 200 MG/DL is considered desirable.
As for HDL, the good cholesterol, anything over 50 MG/DL is preferred.
For LDL, the bad cholesterol, anything less than 100 MG/DL is considered optimal.
And when it comes to triglycerides, you want to shoot for a number less than 150 MG/DL.
Dr. Stein says, "I think it's important for your listeners to realize that just by looking at you, you would think you're perfectly healthy. You look healthy, you're active, you're lean, but we can't tell what's really going with a person's risk unless we look at their blood."
In some cases, doctors may need more than a blood test to determine risk.
"For patients whom they and their doctors can't decide what to do next, we often times offer them an ultrasound screening test called a Vascular Health Screening examination," according to Dr. Stein.
As part of my overall heart health check, I had the test done.
"The 1st thing we do is look up the vessel and make sure there is no major blockage," says UW Health Ultrasonographer Nancy Bell.
She is taking a close look at my carotid arteries, the arteries that supply blood to the brain.
"What we can do using high resolution images is measure how thick the walls of the arteries are, and use that as a window to the heart arteries. We can tell you how old the arteries are and whether or not they are aging faster than they should be," says Dr. Stein.
This particular scan, called C-I-M-T does need to be ordered by a physician, and is typically for people between the ages of 40 and 70 with risk factors of heart disease, including high cholesterol and family history.
Luckily, despite my borderline HDL numbers, the ultrasound did not find anything of concern.
So a healthy diet and plenty of exercise is my prescription for now, but the clock is ticking, and no one wants to be a statistic.
So, keep in mind what it is that keeps you going.
Dr Stein says two-thirds of our heart disease and stroke risk can be managed by lifestyle changes like diet and exercise.
The other third, our genes, we can't do much about..
But if we are aware of our family history and cholesterol numbers that can help prevent a major event from happening.