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5 health numbers you should know by heart

Posted July 20, 2020 by Melanie K Bortell, DO

As we grow older, wrinkles, fine lines and gray hairs aren’t the only aging factors we need to be concerned about. The real health indicators we should be tracking can’t be found in any mirror — and they affect our heart and other vital organs. 

These are critical heart health numbers that should not be ignored and include blood pressure, resting heart rate, cholesterol, blood sugar and body mass index. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Knowing your critical heart health numbers could very well save your life. Because many of these conditions are silent until they reach dangerous levels, you will have no way of knowing your numbers without a doctor checking them regularly. 

By keeping track of your heart health numbers, you can better manage your health. While you can’t stop gray hairs and wrinkles from showing up, each step in the right direction can decrease your heart health risks. Summa Health lists the top 5 health numbers you should know by heart.

Blood pressure

A healthy blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 — commonly referred to as 120 over 80.  

The pressure at which your blood flows through your arteries is your blood pressure, which is measured by two numbers. The first number indicates the amount of pressure when your heart beats, pushing blood through your arteries. The second number indicates the amount of pressure between heartbeats, when the heart is at rest.

Unfortunately, high blood pressure is silent, with no symptoms. That’s why it should be checked regularly. Contact your doctor if you consistently get readings over 130/80 or if your top number ever exceeds 140.

Resting heart rate

When you’re at rest, your heart should be, too. A normal resting heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute.

A rapid heartbeat while at rest may be an indicator that your heart is working harder than it should and can be due to high blood pressure, other heart problems, or other serious health conditions.


Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance produced by the liver, which your body needs to build cells. 

A cholesterol reading measures the different fats in your blood. Some are good and some are bad. If you have too much of the bad kind, you’re at risk of a heart attack.
LDL or Low-Density Lipoprotein is the bad kind of cholesterol that increases your risk of developing plaque in your arteries. As plaque builds up, it can cause heart attacks and strokes. HDL or High-Density Lipoprotein is the good kind of cholesterol and it helps clean up the bad kind from your arteries. 

Your optimal cholesterol reading will depend on your age and risk of heart disease. Using your age and risk factors for heart disease, your doctor can calculate your 10 year risk of a heart attack or stroke (10 year ASCVD risk). Knowing this number can help you and your doctor determine the best treatment for you, which could include lifestyle changes and possibly medication.

Blood sugar

A reading of your blood sugar measures how much glucose (a type of sugar) is in your blood, which serves as the main source of energy for your body. 

Your optimal fasting blood sugar level should be less than 100 milligrams/deciliter. Your A1C reading — an average blood glucose over the past three to four months — should be less than 6.5 percent. If your A1C reading is 5.7-6.4, you are at risk for getting diabetes.

While blood sugar levels fluctuate, especially after you eat, the concern comes into play when your blood sugar level gets too high and remains high for an extended period of time. High glucose levels can cause damage to your blood vessels, kidneys, eyes and nerves.

Body Mass Index

Your body mass index (BMI) is calculated using your height and weight. A normal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. A BMI between 25-29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI over 30 is considered obese.

If you are overweight or obese, you have an increased risk of heart problems, including heart attacks, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heart rhythm that increases your risk of stroke). 

The good news is that losing 5% or more of your initial weight can improve your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.

While you can’t turn back the clock, you can be proactive and keep your heart healthy. By taking the proper steps and precautions, you can reverse each of these numbers by making simple changes to your lifestyle, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, or taking medications, in some cases. Know your risk factors and take control of your heart health.


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