Know Your Numbers
By now, most of us know that exercise and a healthy diet contribute to good heart health. But how do you know if your heart is healthy?
Keeping track of key heart health indicators like your blood pressure, cholesterol and weight is one important way to stay heart healthy.
“Knowing these numbers is vital to staying heart healthy because they are a great way to keep tabs on your heart health and can tell us when there might be a problem that we need to treat,” explained Michael Chen, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center.
Cholesterol is a type of fat, or lipid, in your blood. While your body needs some cholesterol, having too much of the “bad” cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol can harm your heart. This causes plaque to build up in your arteries which can lead to heart attack, heart disease, and stroke.
The best way to keep your cholesterol level in-check is to get an annual physical and ask your doctor to conduct a lipid panel.
Generally, for healthy adults, a total cholesterol of <200 mg/dL and an LDL (or bad) cholesterol of l<160 mg/dL is considered healthy. Your doctor can help you understand what your cholesterol level means and how to keep it healthy.
Blood pressure is a measure of how hard the blood pushes against the walls of your arteries as it moves through your body. When blood pressure is high, it starts to damage the blood vessels, heart and kidney – boosting your risk for heart disease.
While your blood pressure can vary based on your age, health condition and medications – the ideal blood pressure is around 120/80, and anything over 130/80 is considered high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. You can have your blood pressure measured by your doctor or at many local pharmacies.
Weight management is extremely important to maintaining a healthy heart. In fact, obesity has overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature heart attack in the U.S.
Being overweight or obese can cause these problems that put you at higher risk of heart disease:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Type II diabetes
- Sleep apnea
- Non-alcoholic liver disease
A heart-healthy body mass index, or BMI, is 18.5 to 24.9, while 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, with 30 and over obese.
To keep your heart health on track, it’s important to talk to your doctor about what a healthy weight might be for your body, and how often you should weigh yourself.