healthy heart


We live in a swirl of numbers—like phone numbers, Social Security numbers, and password numbers—just to name a few. But do you know the numbers that could save your life? Numbers that will tell you how healthy your heart is and how you can prevent a heart attack? Here are few numbers that hopefully you already know, but if not, we encourage you to take steps to learn them.

Blood Pressure (130/80 or lower)

The force of blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels is a basic definition of blood pressure. When your blood pressure is constantly too high your arteries and heart take a beating. For good health your blood pressure should not be above 130/80. The top number is a measurement of the pressure when your heart is contracting and pushing blood through your body and the lower number is when your heart is at rest between beats and refilling with blood. Dietary changes can be one of the best remedies if your blood pressure is too high. Avoid highly processed food. Instead cook food with simple, healthy ingredients and lay off the salt.

Cholesterol (200 or under)

Your body produces two main types of cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the good type and low density lipoprotein LDL is the bad type. When you measure each type, combine the numbers together and add 20% of your triglyceride level (another kind of fat found in your blood) you get a total score. A desirable cholesterol score is 200 or less. A score between 200 and 239 is considered borderline. Over 240 and you are in danger of a heart attack, because the LDL can clog up your arteries. Fortunately, medical science has made great strides in understanding how to lower cholesterol levels. To bring your numbers down do what your doctor has been telling you all along—lose some weight and exercise with moderate aerobic activity and moderate to high intensity resistance training for 30 minutes at least five days a week. Cholesterol lowering medicines like Lipitor have proven to be effective and with generic versions now available, they are inexpensive, too.

Resting Heart Rate (60 to 100)

A sign of better cardiovascular fitness and a lower risk of premature death is a low resting heart rate. Your resting heart rate is simply how many times your heart beats per minute while you’re at rest. You can check your resting heart rate by yourself—just take your pulse. The Mayo Clinic advises, “To check your pulse at your wrist, place two fingers between the bone and the tendon over your radial artery — which is located on the thumb side of your wrist. When you feel your pulse, count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply this number by four to calculate your beats per minute.” A good time to check your resting heart rate is first thing in the morning when you get out of bed. For most people a resting heart rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute is normal. If your heart rate is above 100 beats per minute (a condition known as tachycardia), you should consult your doctor. For athletes and people who exercise a lot a resting heart rate of under 60 beats per minute can be healthy. However, if you are not in one of these two categories and your heart rate is below 60, you should check with your doctor to be sure there is not an underlying health issue. Although exercise like running, swimming, or riding a bike can temporarily raise your heart rate, these fitness activities can improve your heart’s efficiency over time.  They may also help you lose weight, which can reduce your risk. If you are overweight or obese, your heart has to work to pump extra blood through your larger frame.

Waist circumference (under 40 inches for men, under 35 for women)

Here’s an easy measurement for a healthier heart Take a tape measure and wrap it around your mid section without pushing out or sucking in your belly. Some experts believe that waist circumference is a more accurate gauge of body fat than the more complicated Body Mass Index (BMI) measurement. As a general guideline men should work on a waist circumference under 40 inches and women should strive for less than 35 inches.

Fasting Glucose: (Below 100)

The amount of sugar (glucose) in your blood can be a marker for your likelihood of developing diabetes. There is a strong link between diabetes and coronary artery disease. Because the amount of sugar in your blood varies depending on when you eat and what you eat, your doctor will require that you fast for eight hours before taking a simple blood test to measure your glucose level. If it is more than 100 mg/dL, then you will want to bring that number down to keep your heart healthy.

Timothy J. Cuddigan
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