Living Well: Know your heart health numbers — Remember heart health at your next check-up |

Living Well: Know your heart health numbers — Remember heart health at your next check-up

Claudia R. Pettingill/Brought to you by Memorial Regional Health
It is crucial for everyone to know the numbers associated with good cardiovascular health.
Courtesy photo

Anyone, including children, can develop heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries — over time, plaque hardens and narrows the arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart and other parts of the body. Plaque consists of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood.

“Major risk factors for heart disease include smoking, high LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol), low HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or good cholesterol), hypertension (high blood pressure), uncontrolled diabetes, and a family history of premature CAD (coronary artery disease),” said Dr. Gerald Myers, Cardiology and Internal Medicine at Memorial Regional Health.

Individuals with pre-existing conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, are at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other serious health complications. The American Heart Association reports those who suffer from prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are likely to also have high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar, and be overweight, which leads to risk factors that increase the chances of developing cardiovascular disease, among other health concerns.

And, just because individuals are showing no symptoms or warning signs, that’s not a clear indication that levels are under control. As there are no symptoms for prediabetes, and those with diabetes may be far advanced with the disease before any warning signs appear, the best way to know where you stand is being tested. So, at your next doctor visit, ask about your important health numbers, what they mean, and create a plan with your doctor to improve your results, if needed.

Staying active, exercise, and eating a well-balanced diet are critical. Myers explained that 150 minutes of sustained aerobic exercise per week is key.

“I recommend that individuals try to attain a heart rate of 80 to 85 percent of their predicted maximum heart rate,” Myers said. “This can be estimated by taking 220 minus the person’s age multiplied by .80 or .85.”

Myers also noted that any physical activity is appropriate, from walking to jogging and everything in between, like hiking or biking. Following are some number to know.

Blood sugar

This test measures the amount of sugar, or glucose, in the blood and tests to learn if a person has a form of diabetes, including type 1, type 2, gestational, or specific types of diabetes due to other causes. Myers explained the following blood sugar measurements:

Normal: A fasting blood sugar level less than 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L).

Considered prediabetes: A fasting blood sugar level from 100 to 125 mg/dL (5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L).

Considered diabetes: A fasting blood sugar level at 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) or higher on two separate tests.

Diabetes can be diagnosed with the hemoglobin A1c blood test. The A1c gives an average measure for your blood glucose level over the past two to three months. As Myers explained, hemoglobin A1c levels fall into three categories.

Normal: For people without diabetes, the normal range for the hemoglobin A1c level is between 4 and 5.6 percent.

Higher chance of getting diabetes: Hemoglobin A1c levels between 5.7 and 6.4 percent.

Have diabetes: Levels of 6.5 percent or greater.

Blood pressure

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the arteries when the heart beats and rests. Your doctor will use a cuff to record this measurement, with the top number (systolic) being the peak pressure in the arteries, and the bottom number (diastolic) being the lowest pressure in the arteries. Myers listed the current blood pressure guidelines as follows:

Normal: systolic lower than 120 mm Hg, diastolic lower than 80 mm Hg.

Prehypertension: systolic 120-139 mm Hg, diastolic 80-89 mm Hg.

Stage 1: Systolic 140-159 mm Hg, diastolic 90-99 mm Hg.

Stage 2: Systolic 160 mm Hg or greater, diastolic 100 mm Hg or greater.


Cholesterol is a waxy substance that circulates in the blood; as the amount of cholesterol in the blood increases, so does the risk to your health. Myers explained that his target for someone without documented coronary artery disease is less than 90 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter), while his target for someone with documented coronary artery disease is less than 70 mg/dL. His recommendation for HDL levels is greater than 40 mg/dL in males and greater than 45 mg/dL in females. Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body; they store excess energy from your diet. Triglycerides level should less than 150 mg/dL., according to Myers.

Body mass index

Body mass index, or BMI, is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women. To measure BMI, use the formula of 703 x weight (lbs) / height (inches)2. Myers has the following recommendations for body mass index.

Underweight: BMI is less than 18.5

Normal Weight: BMI is 18.5 to 24.9

Overweight: BMI is 25 to 29.9

Obese: BMI is 30 or more

Family hstory of aremature coronary artery disease: Coronary artery disease occurs when there is buildup of plaque in the heart arteries that could lead to a heart attack. The narrowing of the heart arteries results in limited flow of oxygen rich blood to surrounding heart muscle tissue.

Remember to visit your doctor for the recommended health numbers and ranges you need to know.


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