Knowing Your Numbers: The Key to Your Heart

Want to be as heart healthy as possible? The first step is to understand the numbers that are key indicators of heart health.

It becomes increasingly important to “know your numbers”—that is, your blood pressure, triglyceride levels, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels.

Once you have a thorough understanding of what each number indicates, you can make lifestyle changes to help you achieve healthy numbers, and, overall, a healthy heart.

Under Pressure

Blood pressure measures the rate at which blood pushes through and against your blood vessels. The systolic pressure, or top number, indicates your blood pressure when your heart is working to pump blood. The diastolic pressure, or bottom number, shows your blood pressure when your heart is resting between beats.

Having high blood pressure is a serious health issue—it increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

  • Normal blood pressure is below 120/80.
  • Prehypertension is 120 to 139/80 to 89.
  • High blood pressure, or hypertension, stage 1 is 140 to 159/90 to 99.
  • High blood pressure, stage 2 is 160 or higher/100 or higher.
  • Hypertensive crisis—emergency care is necessary—is higher than 180/higher than 120.

If your blood pressure consistently reads higher than the normal range, it’s important to follow up with your doctor.

Watch Your Triglyceride Level

Triglycerides are also part of your cholesterol levels and are a form of fat in the blood that can raise your risk of developing heart disease.

While triglyceride levels will vary based on personal factors, such as age and gender, a general guideline to follow is:

  • Normal: <150mg/dL
  • Borderline high: 150 to 199mg/dL
  • High: 200 to 499mg/dL
  • Very high: 500mg/dL

Less Is Best

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in all of your body’s cells that is used to create necessary substances for your body, including hormones and vitamin D.

Your total cholesterol is a measure of the cholesterol in your body, in addition to 20 percent of your triglyceride level.

Total cholesterol levels can range from the following:

  • Good: <200mg/dL
  • Borderline high: 200 to 239 mg/dL
  • High: 240mg/dL and higher

Not So Sweet

Type 2 diabetes, a disease in which your body cannot convert glucose in the blood to energy, leading to blood glucose (sugar) levels that are higher than normal, can lead to a number of serious health conditions, such as blindness, kidney failure and heart disease. Because the stakes are high, it’s essential to know your blood sugar levels. Your blood glucose levels will vary depending on whether you fasted or not. Ranges of blood sugar levels include:

  • Optimal: <120mg/dL if not fasting; 70 to 100mg/dL if fasting
  • Prediabetes: 100 to 125mg/dL if fasting
  • Probable diabetes: 200mg/dL or higher if not fasting; 126mg/dL if fasting

If your blood sugar levels aren’t normal, your doctor may order an A1C test, a blood test that evaluates your average blood sugar levels from the past three months.

Because diabetes can be dangerous, work with your doctor to control your diabetes to prevent serious health complications.

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