Know Your Heart Health Numbers
At Oklahoma Heart Hospital, we specialize in taking care of hearts. Our doctors have dedicated their lives to improving heart health and treating our patients’ heart conditions. One important way we do this is through education. We encourage healthy lifestyles and making positive changes but also being knowledgeable about the numbers that can reflect heart health.
Recognizing and preventing heart problems often begins with paying attention to the indicators that give clues to your heart’s health. These five heart health numbers are important to know, as they can provide insight into your risk for certain types of heart disease.
Blood pressure is the force at which blood presses against the artery walls. While high blood pressure is often a concern for heart problems, so is low blood pressure. Blood pressure is reflected in readings by two numbers. The top number indicates how hard the blood presses while the heart is beating, and the bottom number shows the pressure while it rests between beats. Typically, blood pressure above 120/80 mm Hg is considered high and anything under 90/60 mm Hg is considered low.
Heart rate reflects how quickly a heart beats. Often, this is measured both during movement/exercise, such as in a stress test, as well as while the body is at rest. Measurements are taken in beats per minute. Many fitness trackers and smart watches offer continual heart rate monitoring, and patients can also learn to manually calculate their heart rate at any one time. A normal resting heart rate can be anywhere from 60 to 100 beats per minute.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance your body needs for cell and vitamin production. However, too much cholesterol can build up in your arteries and hamper blood flow. Cholesterol is impacted by your diet, activity, and other lifestyle choices. A simple blood test can measure whether your cholesterol is low, normal, or high, which can highlight potential risk of heart disease.
There are three numbers that factor into cholesterol: total cholesterol, LDL, and HDL. The recommended levels vary somewhat by age and gender, but total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dL, while LDL cholesterol should be less than 100 mg/dL and HDL cholesterol should be more than 60 mg/dL.
Excess weight is a well-known risk for heart disease and a simple number for patients to track on their own. In addition to overall weight, an important metric is BMI, or body mass index, which focuses on the ratio of weight to height. Simple calculators are available online to determine BMI and if it lies in the normal range.
Blood sugar levels
Blood sugar is a measure of how much glucose is in your blood. Glucose is the main sugar in blood and comes from the food a person eats. While glucose is necessary for the body, too much glucose may indicate diabetes, which means your body does not process sugar correctly. Diabetes and high blood sugar are risk factors for many heart diseases.
Blood sugar levels can be measured in several ways, including through fasting or non-fasting blood tests. Anything over 200 mg/dL on a random non-fasting blood sugar test indicates potential diabetes. For fasting blood sugar levels, anything less than 100 mg/dL is considered normal.
Some of these metrics are easily tracked by patients at home, but others require your physician to order lab work. Even for those who pay close attention to their weight, heart rate, and possibly even test their own blood sugar regularly, routine doctor appointments are important. A doctor can order blood tests annually to get a clear picture of your overall heart health and make recommendations on action steps to keep your heart health numbers in a healthy range.
Regular monitoring of these metrics can help prevent potential heart problems or allow for early treatment of identified problems. Speak to your primary care physician or contact Oklahoma Heart Hospital to ask about an annual checkup appointment to stay on top of your numbers.