Your heart is the center of your vascular system and is vitally responsible for just about everything that keeps your body moving and feeling good. The heart is a pump that circulates oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. Herbert Hartman, MD, cardiologist with UnityPoint Health, tells us the six heart numbers you should know to keep your heart health in check. He says knowing these health numbers helps patients connect with their physicians regarding the specifics of their heart health. They can also serve as a tangible goal or target to help empower patients and encourage them to improve their heart health.
- Resting Heart Rate
A normal resting heart rate is considered to be between 60 and 100 beats per minute with the ideal being between 50 to 70 beats per minute. Dr. Hartman says you can measure your resting heart rate by feeling your radial artery pulse at the wrist or carotid artery pulse in the neck. Another easy way is with modern technology. Many wearable fitness trackers now include a heart rate sensor. Changes to the resting heart rate, as long as they are within the normal range are likely of no concern. However, persistent heart rates greater than 100 or less than 50 may require further discussion with your health care provider. Talk to your doctor, if you're wondering how to lower your resting heart rate.
- LDL or “Bad Cholesterol"
Normal cholesterol is considered to be less than 130, with less than 100 being optimal and less than 70 being ideal. Heredity plays a role in baseline cholesterol, and there are some genetic traits that increase a person’s risk of developing high cholesterol numbers and heart disease. Knowing your family history of cholesterol problems, can help your health care provider assess your risk of developing future conditions.
- Body Mass Index (BMI)
A normal BMI is considered to be 18-25, while 25-30 is considered overweight and greater than 30 is considered obese. You can use your height and weight to determine your body mass index.
- Systolic Blood Pressure
Systolic pressure is the top number of the blood pressure reading; if your blood pressure is 120 over 80, 120 is systolic. Normal systolic blood pressure is considered to be less than 130.
- Hemoglobin A1c
Hemoglobin A1c is a marker of how much sugar is in the blood; it helps to diagnose diabetes. Normal is considered less than six percent. Your A1c levels can be checked by your primary care provider.
- Waist Circumference
A normal waist circumference is considered to be less than 35 inches for women and less than 40 inches for men. Dr. Hartman says waist circumference and BMI are good measures of overall health. They both speak to body composition, or the relative measure of lean muscle to unhealthy fat. Too much fat has been demonstrated to correlate to increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Dr. Hartman suggests most people get these health numbers checked every six months to one year, at a doctor’s office. He says they may need to be monitored more frequently, if the results are out of range or if you’re taking corrective medication.
In addition to knowing these six numbers, Dr. Hartman has a few other suggestions for you to achieve optimal heart health, including a heart healthy diet, appropriate exercise and getting enough sleep.
“Good quality, restful sleep in an appropriate amount does impact heart health in multiple ways. In general, poor sleep leads to a change in metabolism, often leading to weight gain,” Dr. Hartman says. “Furthermore, poor sleep leads to fatigue during the day, which certainly makes a person less apt to have the energy to exercise and be active.”
If you have any questions about your heart health or heart numbers, consult with your UnityPoint Health primary care provider.
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