More people die of heart disease each year than any other cause. And while your risk of heart disease depends on some factors that are simply out of your control, such as your age and your family's health history, other risk factors, like smoking and your level of physical activity, are within your grasp and can make a big difference.
In fact, according to cardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum, a spokeperson for the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women movement, about 80% of the time, heart disease is preventable. So, when it comes to your heart health what four numbers should you be aware of? To find out where you stand, at your next doctor's appointment be sure to get your blood pressure, blood sugar, blood cholesterol, and body mass index taken, along with some standard blood work. This will provide your doctor with the big-picture.
Here's what you need to know about these four vital numbers:
1. Blood Pressure
What it is: Your blood pressure is defined by the force of blood pressing against your artery walls.
Ideal goal: Aim to have your blood pressure less than 120/80 mm Hg.
If your blood pressure marks as 140/90 mm Hg and above, it is defined as high blood pressure, which increases your risk of strokes and heart attacks.
2. Blood Sugar
What it is: The amount of sugar (or glucose) in your blood, measured by hemoglobin Alc and/or fasting blood glucose tests.
Ideal goal: Aim to have your HbAlc less than 5.7% and fasting glucose less than 126mg/dL.
Diabetes is usually diagnosed when HbAlc is 6.5% or higher, while your fasting glucose is 126mg/dL or higher. If your sugar levels are too high they can damage blood vessels, making you susceptible to heart disease.
3. Blood Cholesterol
What it is: A fat-like, waxy substance in the blood.
Ideal goal: Your doctor will be on the look out for four factors: total cholesterol, which should be less than 200mg/dL; tri-glycerides, which should be less than 150mg/dL; 'good' HDL cholesterol, greater than 60mg/dL and 'bad' LDL cholesterol, less than 100mg/dL. Higher levels of cholesterol may block blood flow to the heart.
4. Body Mass Index
What it is: A measure of body fat calculated using your height and weight.
Ideal goal: 18.5 to 24.9
A BMI of 25 and above is considered to be overweight, while 30 and above is considered to be obese. In such instances, your risk for heart disease is increased.