Keep Your Heart Healthy with These 7 Numbers
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack.
Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.
The CDC says that heart disease takes the lives of around 600,000 Americans every year or 1 in 4 deaths. And, it’s the leading cause of death for both men and women of most ethnicities.
If you’ve been blessed with good health up to this point, it’s easy to ignore some of the early signs of a major health crisis.
Take Your Health Seriously
We tend to throw caution to the wind after our annual visit to the physician where our doctor tells us that our numbers are fine except for a few that are slightly out of the ideal range.
Maybe your blood pressure isn’t where it should be (could be whitecoat syndrome?), or your blood sugar is a tad high that day (that donut probably did it!). We tell ourselves excuses to avoid the reality that we might not be taking the best care of our bodies.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors, says the CDC.
Earlier this year, the AARP ran an article that highlighted seven numbers most important in reducing your risk of heart attacks and strokes.
I thought it was interesting because there was one number (VO2 Max) I hadn’t thought of checking and my doctor has never mentioned.
Today I’ll show you how to calculate your VO2 Max, what it means for your heart health, and list the six other numbers you should be tracking.
Here’s a quick recap of what the AARP recommends for a healthy heart and stroke prevention:
Cholesterol Under 200
Ideally, your cholesterol should be under 200. But, according to AARP, a score of up to 240 may still be considered borderline. If you’re over 240, you should be worried.
Lowering your consumption of red meat and full-fat dairy products is one way you can begin reducing your cholesterol. Mixing in a few vegetarian meals once or twice a week also seems to make a difference according to researchers.
And on top of your diet, increasing the amount of exercise you do will also help lower your cholesterol.
Blood Pressure 120/80
If you don’t own a good quality blood pressure monitor, I would suggest buying one. They’ll run you about $40-$75 at CVS or another pharmacy retailer.
Your ideal blood pressure should be 120/80. But some doctors are comfortable if it’s as high as 140/80. Try taking your blood pressure at different times of day, especially before you exercise and before you consume anything with caffeine.
If your numbers are off, an easy way to bring them back to normal is eating more home cooked meals. Not only will eating a home cooked meal save you money, you can also control how much salt goes into your food.
Controlling your salt intake is one way to regulate high blood pressure but another is increasing your potassium levels by eating avocados, bananas, potatoes, spinach and other vegetables. Potassium lowers the sodium and water retention in your body, which helps decrease your blood pressure.
Heart Rate Between 60-100
Most newer blood pressure monitors will tell you your resting heart rate. Even some of the new fitbits and other health tracking bracelets can give you a pretty accurate estimate.
If you don’t have any hardware, you can monitor your heart rate with an ordinary watch. Count your heart beats for 15 seconds and multiply by 4.
Ideally, your heart rate should fall between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Athletes are likely to have a lower resting heart rate. If yours is outside this range, talk to your doctor to find out if there’s any cause for concern.
Blood Glucose Under 100
When your body becomes unable to regulate your blood glucose, you are at higher risk of diabetes, which also increases your heart attack and stroke risk.
Your blood glucose should be under 100. Your doctor might also want to measure your A1C blood sugar level. This test looks at your blood sugar levels over the last three months, so trying to beat the test by eating healthy for a few days won’t improve your score.
A normal reading is under 5.7 percent. To keep your blood glucose and A1C levels in check, you should eat a diet that’s low in sugar and high in protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Avoid sodas and juices. AARP also recommends talking to your doctor about taking Vitamin D, which can lower your blood glucose levels and help other systems in your body, as well.
BMI Below 24.9
In recent years, doctors have discovered that Body Mass Index (BMI) is a better indicator of health than your actual weight.
But, it’s not always the case. A lot of athletes will appear to have a high BMI, when in reality their body fat is quite low. If you’re not a high-level athlete, don’t kid yourself.
Ideally, your BMI should be below 24.9. If you’re in the range of 25 – 29.9, you’re considered overweight. A BMI over 30 is considered obese.
The best way to lower your BMI is by losing weight. Even a reduction of 5 percent of your current scale weight can make a significant difference in your health.
All you need is a tape measure to find out if you’re carrying too much weight around your stomach. Exhale, and measure your waist. If you’re having trouble finding where your waist begins, bend to one side and you’ll find it.
Most men should have a waist circumference under 40 inches; women should have one under 35 inches.
VO2 MAX Score Above 30
Like I said, this is a number I hadn’t really considered before. VO2 Max is a measure of your total aerobic fitness. If you belong to a gym, they might be able to calculate your score by having your run on a treadmill to exhaustion.
If that sounds too hard, the good news is there’s a written questionnaire that’s surprisingly accurate online. Go to worldfitnesslevel.org and fill out the questionnaire. Your VO2 Max score is based on your age.
If you’re between the ages of 56-65, a “good” VO2 Max score is 36-41. If you’re 65+, a “good” score is 33-37. Anything over 32 for both age categories is considered above average.
The Bottom Line
It’s important to keep your health in check, especially as you get older. These numbers are a good place to start having more informed discussions with your doctor. Without good health, wealth means nothing.
To a richer life,