Know Your Numbers for Healthier Living

Know Your Numbers for Healthier Living

Know Your Numbers for Healthier Living

If you have high cholesterol, there are ways you can lower it. When you do, you help reduce your risks for heart problems. You also boost your chances for living a longer, healthier life. What’s the first step? Work closely with your doctor. Together, you can create a treatment plan to get your cholesterol under control.

Start by taking time to learn about some important metrics.

Know Your Numbers

Cholesterol is one of many preventable risk factors for heart disease. To better understand your cardiac health, your doctor will use other tests to pinpoint other risk factors.

These tests provide important health numbers you need to know and monitor.

Blood glucose
Performed with a simple blood draw, this test measures the amount of sugar (glucose) in your bloodstream. When blood sugar is too high, it can lead to diabetes. A major health problem on its own, diabetes is also a big risk factor for heart disease.

How will you know if your blood sugar is too high? Your doctor will tell you. If it is, you may need to change your diet or activity level to help bring it under control. Eating less saturated fat by cutting back on red meat and desserts might be one way to lower your fasting blood sugar. Getting 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week is another way. If needed, your doctor will prescribe medication that can help.

Blood pressure
Your blood pressure is typically tested with a blood pressure cuff in your doctor’s office. The test measures the force of blood against the arteries when your heart beats and when it rests. When blood pressure remains above healthy levels for too long — generally higher than 120/80 mm Hg — it can trigger a greater risk for heart attack, stroke and other health issues.

Like high cholesterol, high blood pressure has no symptoms. That’s why it’s important to know your numbers. It’s estimated that one out of every three Americans has high blood pressure. In many of them, it goes untreated.

Body mass index (BMI) 
Everyone’s ideal body weight is different. It depends on age, height, gender and frame. BMI is one tool your doctor can use to find out if you’re a healthy weight. The test calculates your weight and height to work out your muscle-to-fat ratio.

A BMI of 25 or higher can increase your risk for heart disease. The higher your BMI, the greater your risk. Here’s the good news: Losing even a small amount of weight — just five to 10 percent of your total body weight — can help. For a 200-pound person, that means shedding just 10 to 20 pounds.

Waist circumference
Measuring your waist also offers clues about your risk for heart disease. If most of your fat is around your waist rather than your hips, you have a higher risk for heart disease and other conditions like diabetes. For heart health, women should strive to have a waistline 35 inches or smaller. Men should try for less than 40 inches.

Improve Your Stats

While knowing these health numbers is important, taking action to improve them if needed is vital. You have the power to reduce your risk for heart disease. By working with your doctor to control your cholesterol levels and keep other risk factors at bay, you can live a longer, healthier life.

Sources: Know Your Numbers, leaving site icon American Heart Association, 2021; Take Action Toward Better Heart Health: Know and Control Your Heart Health Numbers, leaving site icon  National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Originally published 2/11/2016; Revised 2019, 2022, 2024