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Wellness News: Know Your Numbers
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Information provided by Federal Occupational Health

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death across the globe, according to the World Health Organization. The good news is that your risk for heart disease can often be reduced with preventive screenings and lifestyle changes.

Numbers to Live By

The first step to improving your heart health is to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to get your heart health “numbers.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends tracking your body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels to know where you stand regarding your risk.

Body Mass Index 

BMI is an index to determine obesity by using height and weight. Higher BMI values can be an indicator of obesity, which is associated with an increased risk for disease. Although BMI can be used for most adult men and women, it does have limitations. BMI can overestimate body fat in athletes and others who have a muscular build, and it can underestimate body fat in older individuals and others who have lost muscle mass. A healthy BMI range is 18.5 to 24.9.

Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. The systolic pressure (top number) is the pressure of blood against the artery walls when the heart beats. The diastolic pressure (bottom number) is the pressure of blood against the artery walls while the heart rests between beats. A healthy blood pressure is <120/<80.

Cholesterol and Other Blood Lipids

Produced by your liver, cholesterol is a waxy substance that is transported to and from cells by lipoproteins. Some types of cholesterol can facilitate healthy blood flow, while other types can start building up on the walls of your blood vessels and restrict blood flow to your heart and other organs. 

Blood Sugar

A test of your blood sugar levels after going eight hours or more without eating (a fasting glucose test) can give your healthcare provider an idea if you're at risk for diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can raise your risk for heart disease. A healthy fasting blood glucose level is <100 mg/dL.

Start Now

Now is the best time to start making positive changes to lower your risk for heart disease. Often all it takes are some simple—and consistent—lifestyle tweaks. Here are five things you can do today to improve your heart health:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise regularly
  • Manage stress with relaxation techniques, positive thinking, and enjoyable activities
  • Limit your intake of saturated fats, added sugars, salt, and alcohol
  • Quit smoking

In some cases, making these lifestyle changes may not be enough to significantly lower your risk for heart disease, so be sure to talk with your healthcare provider.

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