Your heart and blood vessels are a miracle of architecture and function. The average adult has 25,000 miles of blood vessels in their body, with a heart that pumps 24/7 from the head to the toes. Keeping this marvel working and maintaining heart health, requires some input on your part.
There are some key markers of your heart health, which determine your risk of cardiovascular disease and other serious illnesses, according to your body and lifestyle. Understanding these heart health numbers and taking appropriate actions to maintain them in healthy range can be life saving for you.
Your heart is a vital organ of your body that pumps oxygen-rich blood to keep your body running and functioning, optimally. There are various factors that escalate your risk of heart disease. Though, you can’t control some factors (such as age, gender and family history), you can manage your risk by controlling other lifestyle factors (diet, physical activity, sleep, smoking, stress).
Do You Know This About Your Heart Health
Heart health numbers give you a pretty good estimate of your current heart health and your risk of getting a heart attack or stroke in the next five years. Paying attention to these numbers helps you in making healthy lifestyle changes to improve your health and reduce risk of heart disease.
Finding these numbers becomes all the more crucial when you are in the early stages of disease and has not started experiencing any warning signs or symptoms yet. A blood test is needed to check your blood lipid, cholesterol and sugar levels. However, blood pressure, blood sugar and weight can be monitored at home regularly with the help of blood pressure monitor, home glucose monitor and weighing scale, respectively.
The important health numbers that you should watch to maintain optimal heart health and prevent disease are:
- Total blood cholesterol (Ideal ≤ 200 mg/dL): Cholesterol is a type of fat that your body needs but when there is too much cholesterol in the blood, it builds plaque inside your arteries, which increases risk of heart disease and stroke.The optimal range for total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or less. As this fatty substance doesn’t dissolve in the blood, it is transported to and from the cells by carriers called lipoproteins. There are two types: “healthy” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and “bad” Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. The healthy range for HDL cholesterol is >60 mg/dL and LDL cholesterol is <100 mg/dL. If, you have high total cholesterol, high LDL, and less HDL; you are at increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Triglycerides (Ideal ≤ 150 mg/dL): Triglycerides is another type of fat in the blood, which is measured under your blood lipid profile. High levels of these in the blood are linked to increased risk of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and heart disease.
- Blood pressure (Ideal ≤120/80 mmHG): Blood pressure measures the force of blood against the arteries when your heart beats and rests. It consists of two important numbers: 1) Systolic pressure measures the pressure of blood against artery walls, when the heart pumps blood out, while 2) Diastolic pressure measures the same pressure, when the heart fills with blood.Did you know that boosting your circulation and reduce illnessHigh blood pressure (hypertension) means that your arteries aren’t responding appropriately to the force of blood pushing against artery walls, which directly raises the risk of heart disease. Ideally your blood pressure should be less than 120/80 mmHG. Besides, increasing your risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease; high blood pressure can damage your arteries, brain and eyes.
- Fasting Blood sugar or glucose (Ideal < 90 mg/dL): Body stores glucose in the blood as its main source of energy. However, if your blood sugar is too high or too low than the optimal blood sugar range 70-130 mg/dL, you are at increased risk of diabetes. High blood sugar damages blood vessels and nerves and if left untreated it can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, and other complications.Another parameter to measure blood sugar is the amount of glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) in your blood. It is often considered a better measure, as an HbA1c test gives an estimate of your average blood sugar control in the past 2 – 3 months. HbA1c score should < 7%.
- Body mass index (Ideal < 25 kg/m2): Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of your weight in relation to your height. You should aim for a BMI between 18.6-24.9, as a BMI of > 25 indicates that you are overweight and > 30 points to obesity.This extra weight strains the heart and increases risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and other serious illnesses.What are the best fats in include in a diabetic diet?
- Waist Circumference (Ideal, Women < 35 inch, Men <45 inch): Too much weight around your waist (“apple shape”) is associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and breathing problems. In fact, size of your waist is a better parameter than your BMI, to predict risk of heart disease. You can measure it easily at home by wrapping a non-elastic tape around your belly button. A waist size of > 35 inches in women and >40 inches in men increases risk of cardiovascular disease.Another even more accurate measure is waist-to-hip ratio, where you divide the narrowest part of your waist by the widest part of your hips. A ratio of > 0.85 inches for women and > 0.90 inches for men indicates central obesity with an increased risk of heart disease.
- Steps you take per day: Physically active lifestyle helps in improving almost all the heart health parameters and reduces risk of heart disease. Ideally one should walk up to 10,000 steps a day. Also, aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week.
- Hours of sleep per night: Poor sleep is associated with weight gain, as it leads to change in metabolism. Most people need a consistent 6-8 hours of good quality sleep per night for optimal functioning of their body and reduced risk of heart disease.
- CRP. C-reactive protein is a valuable indicator of inflammation in the body. inflammation precedes cardiovascular problems. The lower the CRP the better.
Careful monitoring of these health markers help you make healthy lifestyle changes to keep your heart health numbers in the target healthy range. These key metrics become your prime motivators in the exciting game, where you are competing with yourself and trying to improve these numbers on your own, consistently.