Your heart is pretty essential. When it’s working at its best, it pumps oxygenated blood to the organs of your body. When it’s not functioning optimally, all sorts of problems can occur.
That’s why it’s important to be sure you’re taking steps to protect your heart health. That includes healthy lifestyle habits, such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, not smoking, getting plenty of quality sleep, limiting stress and eating a balanced diet.
But there’s another important step you should also be taking—checking in regularly with your medical provider.
Many of the risk factors for heart health conditions are easily checked during an annual checkup and routine lab work. Having an annual checkup gives your medical provider an opportunity to ensure your health is on the right track and suggest adjustments, if needed.
Heart Health Numbers You Should Know
You know you need an annual checkup. But what should your medical provider be checking in order to stay on top of your heart health?
Consider these the heart health numbers to know:
- Blood pressure. When your blood pressure is high, it means that your blood is hitting your artery walls quite forcefully as it moves through the body. This can damage blood vessels and increase your heart disease risk. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mmHg or lower.
- Blood sugar. Also called blood glucose, this reading shows whether your body is processing glucose properly. A fasting blood sugar level of 99 mg/dL or lower is normal.
- Body weight. There are two different standards for body weight—BMI (body mass index) and waist circumference. Normal body weight is represented by a BMI less than 25, or a waist circumference 35 inches or smaller for women and 40 inches or smaller for men.
- Cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease since cholesterol builds up in the arteries. A lipid panel will take a look at your cholesterol levels, including total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol), low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides.
Heart Health Screenings You May Need
We’ve outlined the heart numbers to know above. These are all important measures that can help you ensure your heart is operating at its best.
The best news is that all four can also be addressed during an annual preventive checkup, which is covered free of charge by many insurance providers. Blood pressure and weight are typically checked in the office, while basic blood work can check your cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
If you have additional risk factors or are experiencing symptoms, your medical provider may recommend you undergo other heart health screenings, such as electrocardiography, a cardiac stress test, echocardiography, a cardiac CT scan or angiography. These screenings can be used to diagnose medical conditions or simply to monitor your heart health.