5 Numbers to Know for Your Heart Health

Is your heart healthy?

You may think as long as it continues to beat, you're OK. Think again.

Our bodies give us clues when things begin to go wrong, but those clues are only useful if we pay attention. Since heart disease is a bigger killer than cancer, perhaps it's time you pay attention to the most important muscle in your body.

Deepthi Mosali, MD, a cardiologist with Cardiology Specialists of Dayton in Ohio has helpfully assembled a list of five numbers everyone should know because each one is an important indicator of heart health. Each of these should be tested annually. Do you know your numbers?

Five important numbers to know for your heart health:

1. Blood pressure
One of the most common risk factors for cardiovascular disease is high blood pressure, so everyone should have this checked routinely. The ideal is 120/80 or less, so if you are between 120 and 139 (top number or systolic) and 80 and 89 (bottom number or diastolic), you are pre-hypertensive. Pre-hypertensive individuals are identified as those who likely will become hypertensive at some point if they don't work on lifestyle changes. The better you control your blood pressure, the lower your risk for congestive heart failure.

2. Cholesterol
Cholesterol is measured through a simple blood test. Ideally, total cholesterol should be less than 200, and what is known as bad cholesterol, or LDL should be below 100. While good cholesterol or HDL is no longer treated if it is too low, studies show that people with good cholesterol levels that are high tend to do better avoiding heart disease in the long term.

3. Fasting glucose
This test, which measures your blood sugar after you have not eaten for at least eight hours, is often the first test to check for prediabetes or diabetes. Ideally, your fasting glucose should be under 100. If it is between 100 and 125, you should lose weight and change your diet so you don't become diabetic.

4. Body Mass Index (BMI)
BMI is a measure of weight in relation to height and can be easily calculated through an equation. Anything above 25 is considered overweight. If you are over 30, you are considered obese, and a BMI over 40 is labeled morbidly obese. Heavier individuals also should be aware that women with a waist circumference of 35 inches or higher, and men with 40 inches or higher, are at higher risk of heart disease.

5. Physical activity
Sedentary lifestyles are a direct risk factor for heart disease, and most Americans do not get the recommended 30 minutes of exercise, five or more days per week. Even if you can't do it all in one stretch, break up your activity into 10-minute intervals. You should be moving with moderate intensity doing an aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, biking or working out on an elliptical machine.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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