Know Your Numbers for Healthier Living

Know Your Numbers for Healthier Living

For those with high cholesterol, there are many steps you can take to lower your cholesterol levels, prevent heart problems, and live a long life. That’s why it’s so important to work closely with your doctor to create and follow a treatment plan to get your cholesterol under control.

Need-to-Know Numbers
Cholesterol may be one of the preventable risk factors for heart trouble. To better understand your cardiac health, your doctor will conduct tests to pinpoint other factors that can be increasing your heart disease risk. The following tests provide important health numbers that you need to know.

  1. Blood glucose. This test, which is performed with a simple blood draw, measures the amount of sugar (or glucose) in your bloodstream. This is important because blood sugar that’s too high can lead to diabetes—while a major health problem on its own, diabetes is also a significant risk factor for heart disease.

    Not sure how to know if this is a problem? Your doctor will tell you if your blood sugar is too high. If so, you may need to change your diet or activity level to help get it under control. For example, reducing the amount of saturated fat that you eat, such as in meat or desserts, can help lower your fasting blood sugar. Move it! So can getting 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. If necessary, your doctor will prescribe medication that can help.

  2. Body mass index (BMI). Everyone’s ideal body weight is different and depends on age, height, gender and frame. BMI is one tool your doctor can use to help determine if you’re at a healthy weight. The test involves calculating your weight with your height to determine your muscle to fat ratio.

    A BMI that’s 25 or higher can increase your risk for heart disease. The higher your BMI, the greater your risk. However, taking steps to lose even a small amount of weight, such as 5% to 10% of your total body weight, can help. For a 200-pound person, this means shedding just 10 to 20 pounds.

  3. 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. Having too high a blood pressure—generally above 130/80 mmHg over a period of time—can increase the risk for heart attack, stroke, and other problems.

    Like high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure has no symptoms. So it’s important to know your numbers. It’s estimated that one of every three Americans has high blood pressure, and it often goes untreated.

  4. Waist circumference. Measuring your waist is also a test to determine if you’re at a high risk for heart disease. If most of your fat is around your waist rather than your hips, you are at higher risk for heart disease as well as 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.

Action Plan
Getting tested and knowing these health numbers is important. But taking steps to improve them if there’s a problem is vital. You have the power to significantly reduce your risk for heart disease. By working with your doctor to control your cholesterol levels and develop a plan to keep other risk factors at bay, you can live a longer, healthier life.


Originally published February 11, 2016