Numbers To Know By Heart

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There have been a ton of studies released recently concerning nutrition and heart health.  All the debates about saturated fat, the recommendations for sodium restrictions and the whole milk vs skim milk debate.  Lots and lots of heart health related news.  It can be hard to sort through all the information and decide whats right, what would work for you and if you should take action on anything at all!  Last year I blogged about certain risk factors for heart disease and some easy lifestyle changes you could make to decrease your overall risk (review last year’s post here).  But this time I thought I’d give you some easy-to-monitor numbers to watch out for – numbers that can really make or break your heart!  Much easier to monitor and track compared to study after study after study! hearthealth3
Pay close attention to these numbers:

  • Waist Circumference:  this measures abdominal fat or obesity in adults.  The higher your waist circumference, the higher your risk for heart disease.  Men should measure in less than 40″ around and women should be less than 35″.  Get out a tape measure, place it around your waist or at your belly button, and see how many inches you come up with.
  • BMI:  the body mass index is a general tool to let you know if you’re at a healthy weight for your height.  Used alone, BMI may not be 100% accurate in measuring your health, but along with the other numbers listed here, it can provide you with a good idea of your overall health and if you’re at a good weight for your height.  Ideally your BMI should be under 25 but over 17.  If it’s over 25, this could signify you’re overweight – a risk factor for heart disease.
  • Cholesterol:  your total cholesterol level (measured by blood test) measures the total amount of cholesterol in your blood.  Levels above 200 mg/dL can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.  Also low levels of HDL (the good kind) may put you at increased risk as well.  Men should aim for above 40 mg/dL HDL and women should be above 50 mg/dL for HDL.
  • Hours of Sleep:  aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.  Anything more or less could increase your risk for heart disease.  Studies show that lack of sleep can contribute to increased stress and risk for obesity.  These in turn also lead to a higher risk of heart disease.
  • Fiber Intake:  consume 25 g of fiber or more per day – mostly from whole foods instead of processed fiber bars or cereals.  It’s well known that increased fiber intake can help you lose or maintain weight, decrease you blood pressure and lower cholesterol.  It makes sense that it may also reduce your risk for heart disease long term.

Keeping on top of and tracking these numbers can help you manage your heart health and overall health.  Try keeping a journal or monthly log of these numbers – especially if you’re trying to change them.  It will be helpful to you and more importantly your health care team.

Remember, everyone is unique.  These numbers and the information provided in this post might not be correct for you.  Always make sure to check with your doctor before making or changing any dietary habits or medications.  This post is merely for informational purposes.  It is not meant to treat or to recommend treatment for any health or medical condition.

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