5 Health stats you shouldn’t ignore
Heart disease is the leading killer in America, accounting for one in four deaths every year. In some cases, individuals may not realize they have heart disease until the condition advances to later stages, often due to their inability to recognize the symptoms and risk factors associated with the disease.
But heart disease can be prevented with the right lifestyle adjustments, and even if you are diagnosed with a heart health condition, there are treatments available to alleviate symptoms, reduce your health risks, and prevent heart attacks, strokes and other life-threatening events before they start. In many cases, the signs of heart health problems can be spotted just by monitoring five important statistics that reflect your cardiovascular health. Here's a look at the five most important numbers to watch when it comes to your heart's health.
1. Blood pressure
High blood pressure can lead to an increased risk of many conditions, including heart disease. When the body's blood pressure goes too high, your cardiovascular system can suffer years of undue stress that eventually leads to a serious condition, such as narrowed arteries or heart failure. High blood pressure is typically diagnosed at blood pressures above 130/80. If your blood pressure exceeds 180/120, you might have what's called "severe" high blood pressure.1
By lowering these numbers to healthy levels, you can alleviate your system's blood pressure and eliminate a leading risk factor for heart disease.
2. Body mass index
In general, a higher BMI correlates with a greater risk of heart disease and heart-related illness, among other conditions. Any BMI over 25 is considered overweight. But research shows this risk is even greater when an overweight person's weight is collected around their waist.2
"Studies have shown that heart disease and other conditions are more likely in women with a waist of 35 inches or more, while men see an increased risk with a waist size of 40 inches or more," says a Parrish Medical Group physician, Jibril D. Skaden. "A doctor can evaluate your BMI and your waist size, and determine how to approach weight loss strategies aimed at improving cardiovascular health."
3. Blood sugar level
High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels in your body as well as the heart, increasing the risk of heart attack and other serious heart health complications. This is why diabetes is strongly correlated to the development of heart disease and heart-related issues: Consistently high glucose levels in the blood can create lasting damage to your cardiovascular system.
Blood sugar levels can fluctuate throughout the day depending on your diet, but in general healthy levels range between 70 to 80 mg/dL for people who don't have diabetes. These numbers can vary from person to person, though, so it's best to discuss a healthy range with your doctor.
4. Total cholesterol
High cholesterol has a strong relationship to heart disease, heart attack and other conditions, such as stroke. While cholesterol can result in a buildup of fat deposits in the arteries near the heart, the signs of high cholesterol can be difficult to spot until you've reached a point where your cholesterol levels are putting your life at risk.
"A blood test is the best way to measure total cholesterol, which is considered high if it exceeds 240 mg/dL," says Parrish Medical Group physician, Benjamin R, Nettleton. "But even a score above 200 is considered borderline high, and it should likely be addressed by some combination of lifestyle changes and/or cholesterol medications."3
5. HDL cholesterol
One of the best defenses against bad cholesterol buildup is having a healthy supply of HDL cholesterol in your blood. This "good" cholesterol actually helps prevent the buildup of fat deposits in your arteries, and if your levels are low, your body is more likely to develop heart health conditions like heart disease or even a heart attack.
A desired HDL cholesterol level is above 40 mg/dL for men, and 50 mg/dL for women, although the ideal measure for both genders is above 60 mg/dL.3
The next time you visit your doctor, find out your performance with these five numbers, and make the lifestyle changes needed to lower your risk factors and improve your heart's health.