Know your heart-health numbers

By knowing your heart-health numbers, you can set and reach your goals to prevent cardiovascular disease and manage and control your risk factors

You can learn a lot about your heart with a few simple numbers.

Your total cholesterol, including LDL "bad" and HDL "good" cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, fasting glucose, hemoglobin A1C and body mass index (BMI) can indicate how strong your heart is.

Ideal numbers for most adults

Less than


Blood pressure

Less than

25 KG/M2

Body mass index (BMI)

Less than

150 MG/DL


Less than

100 mg/dL

Fasting glucose

Less than


Hemoglobin A1C

Less than

200 mg/dL

Total cholesterol

Men: At least

40 mg/dL*

HDL (good cholesterol)

Women: At least

50 mg/dL*

HDL (good cholesterol)

* HDL (good cholesterol)

Less than 100 mg/dL if at high risk of heart disease or less than 70 mg/dL if at very high risk of heart disease


Blood pressure

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the artery walls.

High blood pressure means the force is too strong and that the heart is working extra hard to move blood.

Over time, high blood pressure can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes and other organs. Controlling your blood pressure can help prevent this damage.

The top number is the pressure when the heart beats (systolic). The bottom number is the pressure when the heart is between beats (diastolic).

How to manage your blood pressure

Total cholesterol

This number is the total amount of cholesterol in your blood. The higher the number, the more likely it is that high cholesterol is negatively affecting your heart health.

How to manage your cholesterol


LDL is known as the "bad" cholesterol, because it can stick to blood vessel walls, reducing or blocking blood flow.


Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood. When needed, your body uses triglycerides for energy.

Fasting glucose

If your fasting glucose is above 100, you may be at risk for diabetes, which raises your risk for other cardiac risks, such as high blood pressure and blockage in arteries of the heart and body.

Hemoglobin A1C

Hemoglobin A1C means your blood sugar is high.

Sugars circulate in the blood and combine with hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying substance in red blood cells.

The glycated hemoglobin test, HbA1c, is a blood test used to determine the average level of blood sugar over a six- to 12-week period.

For adults without diabetes, the average HbA1c test result is usually between 4% and 6%.

Body mass index (BMI)

Body mass index (BMI) measures your weight in relation to your height. The higher your BMI is above 25 or below 18, the greater chance you may have of developing health problems.

BMI is a fairly reliable indicator of body fatness for most people. BMI is an easy-to-perform method of screening for weight categories that may lead to health problems, including heart disease.

BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in pounds by your height in inches, then multiplying the result by 703.

  • A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • A BMI between 25 and 29.5 is considered overweight
  • A BMI of 30 or above is considered obese

Excess weight puts additional stress on your heart and other organs and increases your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

Eating a healthy diet and controlling your weight can seriously reduce those risks and help protect your heart.

Metabolic syndrome

People with metabolic syndrome are at increased risk of coronary heart disease and other disease related to plaque buildup in artery walls, including stroke peripheral vascular disease.

Insulin resistance is an important cause of metabolic syndrome. This is why the metabolic syndrome is also called the insulin resistance syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is characterized by a group of three risk factors. A diagnosis of "metabolic syndrome" is made if at least three of the following conditions are present:

  • Abdominal obesity (excessive fat tissue in and around the abdomen with waist circumference above 40 inches for men and above 35 inches for women)
  • Triglycerides above 150 mg/dL
  • Reduced HDL ("good" cholesterol): less than 40 mg/dL for men, less than 50 mg/dL for women
  • Elevated blood pressure above 130/85
  • Fasting glucose level above 100mg/dL

The metabolic syndrome has become more common in the United States and affects over 50 million Americans.

Managing metabolic syndrome

The primary goal of management of the metabolic syndrome is to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This includes stopping smoking, reducing LDL ("bad") cholesterol, reducing blood pressure, and reducing glucose levels to the recommended levels.

In addition, it is vital to reduce weight to a goal BMI of less than 25 kg/m2. Ways to achieve this goal include increased physical activity, with a goal of at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most days of the week. In addition, healthy eating habits that include reduced intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol are recommended.

Family history

Being active and healthy might not be enough. Genetics plays a huge role in heart health.

Individuals can become more prone to develop heart disease based on their family history.

If an individual's brother, father, or grandfather has suffered from heart disease before the age of 55, he is twice as likely to develop heart disease.

If an individual's sister, mother, or grandmother suffered from heart disease before the age of 65, she is also twice as likely to develop heart disease.

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