About The Author
Michael Curley, MD
Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group, part of Ascension
In life, there are many numbers you need to know – dates, times, pin numbers, phone numbers and more. But it’s less familiar numbers that can provide clues to your heart health.
It’s important to understand key heart numbers because many serious heart conditions can develop without significant warning signs. Even if you feel fine, you should check in with your primary care physician regularly to help keep your cardiac risk in check.
Key heart numbers to know include:
- Waist Circumference – This is an easily measured marker for excess weight and body fat and can be measured at home by wrapping a standard tape measure around your waist. Less than 35 inches is ideal but this number varies a bit by height. You might also want to track your body mass index (BMI), which takes into account both height and weight. A healthy BMI falls between 18 and 25.
- Blood Pressure – Your blood pressure can be measured and monitored at home or your doctor’s office. A blood pressure measurement greater than 130/80 mmHg is considered elevated, while an optimal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg or lower. High blood pressure forces your heart to work harder and can lead to the development of plaque in your arteries and eventually a heart attack or stroke.
- Blood Sugar – This value can be measured through a simple blood draw at your doctor’s office. Normal blood sugar levels are less than 100mg/dL with a fasting blood test. When your blood sugar levels are elevated, the body needs to create more insulin which accelerates the development of plaque in your arteries. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
- Total Cholesterol – Your cholesterol levels can be measured through a simple blood test at your doctor’s office. Healthy cholesterol levels include an LDL of less than 100 mg/dL and a triglycerides measurement of less than 150 mg/dL. LDL cholesterol builds plaque in your arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
- Steps Per Day – This number helps measure a person’s activity level during the day. Most experts recommend getting at least 10,000 steps per day, which can be measured using a basic pedometer or with an app on your phone. If you are not into tracking your steps, try following the American Heart Association’s physical activity recommendation: 30 minutes of aerobic activity at least five days a week or 150 minutes per week total.
To learn more about key heart numbers and your cardiac risk level, talk to a primary care physician. To find a primary care physician near you, reach out to your health insurance provider.