7 Keys to Heart Health & Living Longer

Dear Rich Lifer,

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year about 805,000 Americans have a heart attack.

Of these, 605,000 are a first heart attack and 200,000 are people who have already had at least one heart attack.

The CDC reports that heart disease takes the lives of 647,000 Americans every year — that’s 1 in 4 deaths — and it’s the leading cause of death for both men and women of most ethnic and racial groups.

If you’ve been blessed with good health throughout your life, it’s easy to ignore some of the early signs of a major health crisis. However…

Here’s Why It Pays to Take Your Health Seriously

We tend to throw caution to the wind after our annual visit to the physician when 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 it be whitecoat syndrome?), or your blood sugar is a tad high that day (that donut this morning probably did it!). We make up 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 key numbers to focus on when reducing your risk of heart attacks and strokes.

We thought it was interesting because there was one number (VO2 Max) that is often only tested for athletes, but is actually a measurement that can give you a unique perspective on your aerobic fitness.

Today we’ll show you how to calculate your VO2 Max, what it means for your heart health, and share 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

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that moves around your body in the blood. Your body produces cholesterol naturally, and it is also found in some foods. Cholesterol is essential for the normal functioning of your body.

There are two main types of cholesterol:
High-Density Lipoprotein: HDL or “good cholesterol”
Low-Density Lipoprotein: LDL or bad cholesterol”

“Bad cholesterol” can stick to the walls of your arteries, causing a build-up of cholesterol, known as plaques. This build-up can create blockages in your arteries and contribute to increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

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, mixing in a few vegetarian meals once or twice a week, and increasing the amount of exercise you do will help lower your cholesterol.

Blood Pressure 120/80

Blood pressure is the pressure of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Arteries carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body.

According to the CDC, normal blood pressure level is less than 120/80 mmHg. High blood pressure usually has no signs or symptoms so it’s important to get regular blood pressure checks.

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 (sodium) goes into your food.

Increasing your potassium intake is also important because it lowers the sodium and water retention in your body, which helps decrease your blood pressure.

Potassium rich foods you should add to your diet include avocados, bananas, potatoes, spinach and other vegetables.

Heart Rate Between 60-100

Your resting heart rate is simply how many times your heart beats per minute while you’re at rest. A lower resting heart rate is associated with a lower risk of death.

Checking your heart rate at home is easy (and it’s recommended to do so first thing in the morning)! Simply take your pulse on the inside of your wrist using your first two fingers. 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.

A fasting blood glucose test, when you can only have water for eight hours before the test, is the most commonly used way to take a reading. Your blood glucose should be under 100.

Your doctor might also require you to take a A1C blood test which looks at your blood sugar levels over the last three months. A normal reading is under 5.7 percent.

To keep your blood glucose in check, you should eat a diet that’s low in sugar and fat and high in protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

AARP also recommends talking to your doctor about taking Vitamin D which can help lower the risk of developing diabetes.

BMI Below 24.9

Body mass index (BMI) is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. BMI is an inexpensive and easy screening method to determine if you are underweight, a healthy weight, overweight, or obese

BMI does not measure body fat directly, but it is correlated with more direct measures of body fat.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers an online calculator to estimate your BMI which can be found here: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm

Ideally, your BMI should be between 18.5 and 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.

Waist Circumference

According to AARP, Some experts consider waist circumference a better way to measure body fat than relying on BMI alone.
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

This number was totally new to us and it probably is to you too!

VO2 max is a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilize during exercise. It’s also called peak oxygen uptake, maximal oxygen uptake, or maximal aerobic capacity. Tests that measure Vo2 max are considered the gold standard for measuring cardiovascular fitness.

VO2 max is typically measured by having the subject run on a treadmill to the point of 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.

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.

It’s important to remember a “good” VO2 Max score has to do with a plethora of factors such as age, gender, and fitness level. There is no such thing as an “overarching perfect” score.

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 if you are looking to have more informed discussions with your doctor. Without good health, wealth means nothing.

To a richer life,

The Rich Life Roadmap Team

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