Maintaining a healthy heart is key to ensuring good overall health. And knowing the numbers associated with heart health enables you to make positive lifestyle changes, reduce your risk for heart disease and potentially save your life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s one in every four deaths. Lack of exercise, a poor diet and other unhealthy habits can increase your risk over the years. But, there’s good news: anyone at any age can benefit from these simple steps to keep their heart healthy:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Don’t smoke
- Eat right
- Know your numbers through regular screenings
When it comes to heart health, the three numbers that matter most are: your blood pressure, your cholesterol levels and your Body Mass Index (BMI). If you aren’t sure what your numbers are or you haven’t had them measured in a while, schedule a screening today. Read on to learn how these three little numbers make a big impact on your cardiovascular health.
The Basics: Blood pressure is typically recorded as two numbers and written as a ratio. The Mayo Clinic explains that the top number is systolic pressure, which is also the higher of the two numbers. It measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (when the heart muscle contracts). The bottom number shows diastolic pressure, the lower of the two numbers. It measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (when the heart muscle is resting between beats and refilling with blood).
How it’s measured: Blood pressure is checked through a quick, painless test using a blood pressure cuff – also known as a sphygmomanometer. You can complete the test at a doctor’s office, employer wellness event, pharmacy or at home. High blood pressure often shows no signs or symptoms, which is why it’s so important to have yours checked regularly.
The basics: Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like (lipid) substance found in every cell in the body. The body uses cholesterol to form cell membranes, aid in digestion, convert Vitamin D in the skin and develop hormones. High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is considered “good cholesterol” because it removes excess cholesterol from the bloodstream and the artery walls and transports it back to the liver for metabolism. Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is considered “bad” cholesterol because it contributes to plaque—a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries and make them less flexible. LDL carries needed cholesterol to all parts of the body, but too much LDL in the system can lead to coronary artery disease.
How it’s measured: Cholesterol levels are checked through a simple blood test called a lipid profile.The test measures several kinds of total cholesterol and its individual parts including triglycerides. BioIQ includes a complete cholesterol/lipid panel as an essential part of its population health screening programs. The American Heart Association recommends all adults have their cholesterol checked once per year.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
The Basics: Your BMI can be used to screen for weight categories that may lead to future health problems, but it’s not a diagnostic tool. A high BMI can put you at risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and coronary artery disease. Once you know your BMI, you can talk to your doctor about whether you need to make diet and lifestyle changes. The good news is even a small weight loss (between 5 and 10 percent of your current weight) can help lower your risk of developing those diseases.
How it’s measured: The CDC calculates BMI by dividing weight in pounds (lbs) by height in inches (in) squared and multiplying by a conversion factor of 703. Calculating BMI is an easy-to-perform and inexpensive method of screening.
Take care of your heart during American Heart Month – and all year long– so you can stay healthy and do what you love for many years to come.