On this seventh week of 52 weeks to see your life nutritionally I’m doing something a little bit different. I’m not chatting directly about nutrition, but instead about how you measure your health. Do you know your numbers?
Today, I’m sharing the 5 numbers you need to know for American Heart Month.
Not to talk politics, BUT…Since 1964 when President Lyndon B. Johnson first declared February as American Heart Month, the government and American Heart Association bring attention to America’s #1 killer each February. Not to be so dramatic or anything.
Chances are you know someone intensely affected by heart disease or stroke. They are the leading causes of death in the United States leading to more than 17 million deaths each year.
According to the American Heart Association, the number of deaths due to heart disease and stroke is expected to climb to about 24 million by 2030. Now that is a scary number.
There are things you KNOW you should be doing to keep your heart healthy…
- Eat right — eat more veggies, less saturated fat, more fiber, less packaged foods.
- Move more — cardiovascular exercise and strength training are both part of a heart-healthy exercise routine.
- Stop smoking or never start. End of story.
- Limit your alcohol intake to true moderation. Research shows that MODERATE alcohol intake — in adults who already drink — can benefit your heart…but what is moderation? That’s 1-2 drinks daily for women and men, respectively.
- Get enough sleep.
- Stress less.
- Love more.
But do you know your NUMBERS?
I’m a true believer in owning your health. You MUST be educated. You NEED to be your own advocate. It is ESSENTIAL that you know your numbers.
And what numbers should you really know?
Here are 5 Numbers You Need to Know for American Heart Month…
1.Cholesterol — the good, the bad, and the
Cholesterol is essential for your body. So essential that your body even makes it on its own. You need cholesterol to make hormones, building blocks of cells and tissues and for your brain to function properly. But too much cholesterol in your blood is typically a bad sign, which is why you should know your cholesterol levels and the family history associated with them.
Your total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dL.
But look beyond your total cholesterol number and focus on the ratio of your “good” (HDL) and “bad” (LDL) cholesterol.
The “good” HDL cholesterol carries cholesterol back to your liver to be put to work or to be rid of from your body. You want your HDL cholesterol to be greater than 40 or 50 mg/dL for women and men, respectively.
Your “bad” LDL cholesterol carries cholesterol within your blood…and that’s exactly where we DON’T want it to be! Having high LDL cholesterol levels is typically associated with increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and atherosclerosis (plaque build up in your vessels). Aim for your LDL cholesterol to be less than or equal to 100 mg/dL.
2. Hemoglobin A1c
This is one of my favorites — especially for Millennials! Your hemoglobin A1c is the measure of how much sugar you have attached to the oxygen-carrying protein [hemoglobin] in your blood. It measures your blood sugar control over the previous 60 to 90 days. If your A1c level is elevated then you are at risk for diabetes.
A normal A1c level is 4-5.7%. Equal to or any greater than 5.7% may be indicative of pre-diabetes or diabetes.
I said this is a favorite number to know especially for Millennials because many physicians do not routinely check A1c in this young population without overt risk factors and I think they should. The earlier you start to see this number creep up, the earlier you can intervene and try to make some changes to your diet and lifestyle that can benefit your health yearsss in advance.
Ohhh the very debated BMI. Your BMI is a measure of your weight in relation to your height (kg/m2). You can figure out your BMI using online calculators like this one. BMI is widely used in clinical nutrition to categorize weight — underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obese. Since BMI only takes two factors — weight and height — into account it is not the be all end all, but I do think it is an important number to know.
Bodybuilders, for example, may be considered overweight or obese even though their body fat percentage is very low. This where a comprehensive picture is much more necessary than just one number! If you have any questions about what your BMI means, feel free to reach out!
4. Waist circumference
I happen to like using waist circumference to measure health WAY more than BMI or even just weight alone. Studies consistently show that individuals who carry weight centrally (or “apple” shapes) are at increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes than those who carry weight more evenly distributed throughout their body or are “pear” shaped.
For optimal health, your waist should measure less than or equal to 35 or 40 inches for women and men, respectively. If you’re looking to drop a few lbs, check out some of my tips based on your body size.
5. Blood pressure
Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure with which blood flows through your blood vessels. It’s related to your heartbeat, the diameter of your blood vessels and more. There are two numbers that make up your blood pressure — your systolic pressure (the top number) and diastolic pressure (the bottom number). The systolic pressure is the pressure with which blood leaves your heart to flow to the rest of your body, whereas the diastolic number is the pressure in your vessels upon returning to your heart, in between heartbeats. Ideal blood pressure is 90-120/60-80 mmHg.
Elevated blood pressure can mean a variety of things, but is often associated with increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, smoking, lack of physical activity and more. Sodium (salt) consumption may increase your blood pressure reading but is typically not a cause of consistently elevated blood pressure. However, if you do have high blood pressure, following a reduced sodium diet may help you lower your blood pressure. You can find out more about blood pressure and what your blood pressure means from the American Heart Association.
Aaaand there you have it! 5 numbers you need to know for American Heart Month. Of course I think there are SO many more parameters to measure your health than just these 5 numbers (click here to see some more!) but if you’re not familiar with these basic 5 I think it’s time to go on your first date and really learn what these mean! As always, nothing written above is meant to substitute any medical advice from your physician and if you have any questions please feel free to reach out.
Have a fab Sunday and I hope you’re starting to see your life a bit more nutritionally these days!