You know your phone number, your social security number, your PIN number, your license plate…but how many of those have the potential to save your life? In the fight against heart disease, there are some important numbers you should know, but you won’t find any of them in your wallet.
Instead, these numbers represent important heart health factors that you could be overlooking: blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol, blood sugar, body mass index, and waist circumference are all contributors to heart disease and the best way to prevent it is to know and understand them.
“Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women,” says Jason Bradley, MD, cardiologist at Lankenau Medical Center, Main Line Health. “With a statistic like that, you can’t afford to ignore your heart health. Knowing your numbers and noting any significant changes is the single most effective way to determine your heart health.”
Below, see a list of important numbers you should know to better understand your heart health. Although there is a brief explanation and healthy range provided, your doctor can help further clarify whether or not you are at risk for heart disease.
Blood Pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries. High blood pressure puts more stress on your heart and arteries, and can contribute to heart attacks, heart failure, and fatty buildup in the arteries.
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood and stored in fat cells. When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn’t use right away into triglycerides. If you’re regularly eating more calories than you burn, high triglycerides could be a problem.
Normal: Less than 150 mg/dl
High: 200-499 mg/dl
Very high: 500 mg/dl
Cholesterol is a fatty substance in the blood and cells. It can easily build up in your arteries and restrict blood flow, leading to dangerous blood clots that can cause heart attack or stroke. There are two different types of cholesterol: LDL (bad) and HDL (good). Sources of HDL cholesterol include oils, nuts, and fish. To ensure a healthy level of total cholesterol, aim for:
Normal: Less than 200 mg/dl
LDL Cholesterol: Less than 100 mg/dl
HDL Cholesterol: Greater than 50 mg/dl
Blood Sugar is the concentration of glucose in the blood. High levels of blood sugar are most often linked to diabetes, but are also a risk factor for heart disease.
Normal: Less than 100 mg/dl
Body Mass Index (BMI) is an indicator of body fatness for most people, while Waist Circumference is the distance around your waist, just above the navel. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease and cause additional health problems.
Healthy BMI: 18.5-24.9
Healthy Waist Circumference: under 35 inches
It’s never too soon to know your numbers. If you want to know your numbers now, try our health calculators, which can help you determine your BMI, target heart rate, and a healthy body weight. While you’re there, take our heart risk assessment, which can give you an idea of your heart health.