Taking control of your health can empower you to advocate for yourself when something goes wrong. While doctors can measure the key indicators during a physical exam, this is a one-time measure. Your continual monitoring can alert your physician of irregularities or other symptoms that could be cause for concern.
Monitoring your heart health doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Here are the numbers to track and what they mean, so you can improve heart health and lower your risk for disease.
1. Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the pressure in your arteries as blood courses through. It is measured by two numbers, the amount of pressure when the heart beats (systolic) and the pressure when the heart relaxes between beats (diastolic). High blood pressure is known as hypertension. This is known as a “silent killer” because it has no symptoms and can be diagnosed only by being monitored. This makes it important to keep tabs on these numbers to prevent overall, long-term damage to the heart and arteries.
A healthy blood pressure reading should be 120/80. Higher or lower than that can indicate an issue you should bring up with your doctor.
2. Blood Sugar
Blood sugar is how much glucose is in your blood. Blood sugar levels tend to fluctuate after eating, but the concern is when glucose levels get too high and remain at a high level for long periods of time. Blood sugar can be tested, usually after an eight-hour fast, and a healthy reading is lower than 100 milligrams/deciliter.
Cholesterol measures different types of fats in the blood. Three things are measured to determine your cholesterol.
LDL: low-density lipoproteins. Also known as the “bad” cholesterol, this number should be 100 or less.
HDL: high-density lipoproteins. Also known as the “good” cholesterol, this number should be 60 or above.
Triglycerides: fat found in the blood. This number should be less than 150 milligrams per deciliter.
4. Resting Heart Rate
Your resting heart rate is the quickest, easiest way to determine how your heart muscle is functioning. All you have to do is place your middle and index fingers on your wrist or neck to count the beats of your pulse for 30 seconds, then double that number for the beats per minute. A healthy measurement for your resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute. The best time to check this is first thing in the morning.
A measurement higher than this indicates your heart is working harder than it should, and could be linked to other health problems.
Your body mass index (BMI) measures your weight against your height. This tells you if you are at a healthy weight for your size. The ideal BMI is between 18.5 and 25. Below 18.5 indicates you are underweight, and over 25 indicates you are overweight. Both can have serious effects on your heart.
6. Waist Circumference
The size of your waist around can also be an indicator of your heart health, and is easy to monitor. Using a tape measure is a simple way to track this. A healthy waist circumference for women is less than 36 inches and for men, less than 40 inches.
Keeping track of these numbers and knowing when they are out of the healthy range can significantly reduce your risk for heart disease. While these numbers provide a baseline to work off of, they can vary by age, gender and other health conditions. This makes it important to verify your individual numbers to track for heart health with your doctor, so you can understand what a healthy range is for you. If you’re noticing any of your numbers aren’t on track, make an appointment with one of our physicians today. To find out how much the average person really knows about heart health, check out our infographic in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic.