You went to the doctor and got all the tests you needed to find out if you are heart healthy or on the road to heart disease. You got a flurry of numbers from the doctor.
Want to take the confusion out of all of the numbers from your doctor? Good cholesterol, bad cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, blood sugar…what do you really need to know?
Cholesterol & Triglycerides
Cholesterol and triglycerides are measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood. Cholesterol is broken into two different kinds: high density lipoprotiens (HDL), or good cholesterol, and low density lipoprotiens (LDL), or bad cholesterol. Controlling cholesterol and triglycerides are key to maintaining heart health and risk of heart disease.
Desirable levels are considered low risk.
- Total cholesterol: Less than 200
- HDL: 60 and above
- LDL: Less than 100
- Triglycerides: Less than 150
Borderline high levels are higher than normal risk.
- Total cholesterol: 200-239
- HDL: 40-59
- LDL: 130-159
- Triglycerides: 150-199
High levels represent more than double the risk of heart disease.
- Total cholesterol: 240 or higher
- HDL: Less than 50
- LDL: 160 or higher
- Triglycerides: 200-499
Triglycerides have an even higher level considered “very high”, which is 500 milligrams per deciliter or higher.
High blood pressure or hypertension causes heart attack, stroke and leads to heart disease. It also causes other serious health problems related to circulation and heart muscle health. Blood pressure is measure in millimeters of mercury. Your doctor will represent your blood pressure as systolic pressure over diastolic pressure.
Systolic blood pressure is the pressure in the heart when it is contracting, or the higher top number. Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure in the heart when the ventricles are filled with blood and at rest, or the lower bottom number.
What do the numbers mean?
Four levels of blood pressure (BP) classify the risk of heart disease: normal, pre-hypertension, stage one high and stage two high. Pre-hypertension can normally be controlled by diet and exercise. Stages one and two are treated by a physician with medication and more aggressive therapies, including surgery.
- Systolic BP: Less than 120 and
- Diastolic BP: Less than 80
- Systolic BP: 120-139 or
- Diastolic BP: 80-89
High, Stage One:
- Systolic BP: 140-159 or
- Diastolic BP: 90-99
High, Stage Two:
- Systolic BP: 160 or higher or
- Diastolic BP: 100 or higher
You will notice the “or” in the last three levels. Even if one pressure is in a healthier level, you are classed into the level where the higher number falls.
If you have Stage Two high blood pressure, you should be monitoring your blood pressure at home with a monitor as well as frequent check ups with your physician to monitor medication efficacy.
Blood Sugar & Body Mass Index
Blood sugar levels determine whether or not your body produces enough insulin to process the sugars you eat. Blood sugar should be tested after you have fasted for at least eight hours. It is measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood. A desirable fasting blood sugar level is less than 100.
Body Mass Index (BMI) determines whether or not you are overweight. It is a ratio of height to weight and provides general health information. By itself, BMI is only a general indicator of health. It does not apply equally to men and women, different frame builds, muscle mass, activity level or ethnicity, all of which affect BMI. BMI values are also not accurate for body builders or professional athletes.
Based on the National Institutes of Health guidelines, BMI scores fall into four categories:
- Underweight: BMI less than 18.5
- Healthy weight: BMI of 18.5-24.9
- Overweight: BMI of 25.0-29.9
- Obese: BMI of 30.0 or more
Ask Your Physician
Before you act on any of your numbers, ask your physician about what your numbers mean to your heart health and what you can do to improve them.
When was the last time you had all of your numbers checked? When was the last time you had your oil changed? How do your answers compare?
Disclaimer: Information provided in this blog post is not offered to replace, contradict or augment professional medical advice. Information is offered as a service to readers to encourage open dialogue between patient and health care provider. Please view full text of disclaimer in The Office located on the top menu bar.