Monitoring your heart health doesn’t have to be that complicated. In fact, it can be broken down into just five numbers. They’re the same numbers your doctor uses to assess your heart disease risks; and what better time to start keeping track of them than during heart health month.
American Heart Month is a federally designated month in the United States. It’s every February, but not only because of Valentine’s Day. More importantly, heart health month serves as a reminder that heart disease is the number one killer among American men and women.
It’s a good time to think about your heart and whether you’re giving it the respect it deserves. To help you form some healthier heart habits, try tracking these five numbers during heart health month and beyond.
Heart Health Month: By The Numbers
Your blood pressure is measured in two numbers—the systolic pressure, or top number, which is taken as your heart beats and the diastolic pressure, which is taken as the heart relaxes. The American Heart Association recently updated their blood pressure guidelines:
|Healthy:||Less than 120||and||Less than 80|
|Elevated:||120-129||and||Less than 80|
If your blood pressure reading is 130/80—it is too high, so you’ll want to talk to your doctor about what you can do to bring it down.
This is determined by how much glucose is in your bloodstream. High levels can cause diabetes and increase your risk of heart disease. A healthy blood sugar (usually taken after eight hours of fasting) is less than 100.
Talk to your doctor about whether you should be checking your blood glucose.
Body Mass Index
Your Body Mass Index, or BMI, is an important number to know. It compares your weight against your height, which helps you to know if you are a healthy weight for your frame.
Ideally, you want a BMI between 18.5 and 25. If it’s lower than 18.5 you’re considered underweight. If your BMI is higher than 25 you’re considered overweight. You can use The National Institutes of Health BMI calculator to find out where you stand.
A tape measure can be a great tool you can use during heart health month, and all year long, to help improve your heart health. That’s because belly fat is a strong indicator of heart disease and diabetes.
Measure your waist around your belly button and aim for less than 35 inches if you’re a woman and 40 inches if you’re a man.
High cholesterol can lead to build-up in your arteries and seriously increase your risk of heart disease. It’s important to know your total cholesterol number, as well as your LDL (low-density lipoprotein). This is considered the “bad” cholesterol. For a healthy cholesterol, aim for lower than 200 and lower than 100 for your LDL levels.
Most doctors recommend checking your cholesterol at least every five years. Talk to your doctor about getting your cholesterol checked.
Heart Health Month is a great time to develop some heart-healthy habits. Set up a schedule and check your numbers regularly. You’ll also find more heart disease facts in our new guide “Heart Disease Facts That Can Change Your Life.” In it you’ll find out what you can do to lower your risk for developing heart disease.