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  Home » Newsletter » Five Numbers for a Healthy Heart, February 2013

Five Numbers for a Healthy Heart

Five Numbers for a Healthy HeartFebruary is a busy month for hearts. In addition to celebrating Valentine’s Day, February is American Heart Month. This Valentine’s Day, the best valentine you can give yourself is learning how to keep your heart healthy. According to the CDC, about 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year — that’s 1 in every 4 deaths. The good news is that heart disease is preventable and controllable. Take control of your heart health by learning these 5 important numbers to prevent heart disease. Knowing these numbers can literally save your life.

Waist Size

If you have too much fat — especially if a lot of it is around your waist — you’re at higher risk for such health problems as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Why is fat around the stomach so bad? It tends to be a sign of visceral fat, or fat that gathers around the organs in the abdomen. This fat tends to promote insulin resistance and unhealthy cholesterol numbers, and may also boost inflammation. For women, health risk begins to rise when your waist is more than 35 inches. For men, risk increases when your waist is over 40 inches.

Your LDLs and HDLs

It's important to know not just your total cholesterol reading, but also your levels of LDL "bad" cholesterol and HDL "good" cholesterol. LDL (Low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is the "bad" cholesterol. When too much of it circulates in the blood, it can clog arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the ideal LDL number is less than 100 mg/dL.

HDL (High-density lipoprotein) or the "good" cholesterol helps keep the LDL (bad) cholesterol from attaching to the arterial walls. Medical experts believe that HDL tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it’s passed from the body. Because hdl is protective, higher levels are desirable. Therefore, a level greater than 40 mg/dL is the ideal HDL range for men, while greater than 50 mg/dL is the ideal range for women.

Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is measured in two numbers: systolic and diastolic. Systolic (the top number) measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. Diastolic (the bottom number) measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (when the heart muscle is resting between beats and refilling with blood). The AHA recommendation for healthy blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg or less. Typically more attention is given to the systolic blood pressure number as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease especially for people over 50 years old.


Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood which your body uses for energy. Triglycerides are made from the fats and carbohydrates you eat. You need some triglycerides for good health, but high triglycerides are linked to coronary heart disease. Excess triglyceride in plasma is called hypertriglyceridemia. The National Cholesterol Education Program’s guidelines for triglycerides are: Normal: Less than 150 mg/dL. Changes in lifestyle habits are the main therapy for hypertriglyceridemia.

Resting Heart Rate

Your pulse is the number of times your heart beats in one minute. Regular monitoring of your resting pulse will help determine your level of fitness and the health of your heart. A normal resting pulse rate is 60 to 90 beats per minute. Athletes typically have lower heart rates, sometimes even as low as 40 beats per minute because of their better heart fitness. However, pulse rate vary from person to person. In addition, there are certain medical conditions such as cardiac arrhythmia which may alter the normal pulse rate of an individual. Other influencing factors include age, gender and fitness level.

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