Healthy Heart: Know Your Numbers!

25 Healthy tips for Healthy Heart

Working in Health Care for thirty years before putting on the writer’s cap, I learned the numbers to staying healthy and I want to share those with you.  I now do wellness screenings as an independently contracted Registered Nurse for a variety of corporations.  Many people tell me that they know their numbers but don’t know what is normal so I have put the numbers all in one place, along with some helpful information.

As writers, we are often in front of the computer for hours at a time and forget to do the healthy things or get sidetracked and do not eat properly. Diet has so very much to do with our overall health, as do healthy doses of exercise, sleep and hugs.  It is also very important to know your numbers! If you have insurance at your workplace and health screenings are performed definitely participate if that is an option.  If not, get a comprehensive metabolic profile from your physician, especially if you are over thirty.  What we do now may determine how healthy we remain in the future.  

Blood Lipids are fatty acids in our bloodstream, or cholesterol, that areimages (1) necessary for our brains to function properly.  No cholesterol, no brain function.  Problem is, too much cholesterol and we get plaques of fat building up and a stiffening of our blood vessel walls and they lose their elasticity and cause the blood to not flow properly to our vital organs, particularly the heart and the brain.  This pre-disposes us to heart attack or stroke.

Blood Lipids Desirable: High Risk

Total Cholesterol (mg/dl) <200: ≥240

HDL-Cholesterol (mg/dl) >60: <40

LDL-Cholesterol (mg/dl) <130: ≥160

TC/HDL Ratio <3.5: >5.0

Triglycerides <150: >200

Source: National Cholesterol Education Program

You are at risk if you:

1. Have a family history of early heart disease

2. Smoke, are overweight or obese, have high blood

pressure, or consume a diet high in saturated fat.

3. Don’t engage in cardiovascular exercise at least

30 minutes most days of the week

You can reduce your risk if you:

  1. Quit smoking, reduce your weight if you are over- weight, and consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and low in saturated fats. Take Omega-3s or other fish oils, include walnuts or other nuts to increase your good Cholesterol (HDL).  Include wild caught fish and skinless chicken in your weekly diet and get protein from beans and lean meat cuts.
  2. Eat foods rich in anitoxidents like berries, tomatoes, (just about anything red or blue) and grape seed oils.
  3. Keep your daily dietary cholesterol intake below 300 mg.


Blood Sugar, or glucose levels can also cause vital organ failures over time, predispose us to infection, resulting in limb amputation, blindness and death.  Type One/insulin dependent diabetes is most often diagnosed in adolescence. If you are already a diabetic, manage your insulin and diet correctly.  Contrary to popular belief, eating sugar does NOT cause diabetes, but it leads to weight gain, which can result in metabolic syndrome, including diabetes.  In diabetes, the pancreas is not producing enough insulin to get the sugars (energy building blocks) across the cell membranes to do their job.  Taking a prescribed oral anti-diabetic agent is not taking insulin, but taking a drug that stimulates the pancreas to produce more insulin.  These are often helpful for the pre-diabetic who has not been able to manage with diet and exercise alone, or the Type Two/adult onset diabetic who manages well with dietary restrictions.

Blood sugar

Fasting: Non-Fasting

Normal 70-99 mg/dl: Less than 140 mg/dl

Pre-Diabetes 100-125 mg/dl: 140-200 mg/dl

Diabetes Over 126 mg/dl: Over 200 mg/dl

Source: American College of Sports Medicine

You are more likely to get diabetes if you:

1. Are African-American, Native American, or Latino

2. Have a family history of diabetes

3. Are overweight or obese

4. Lack exercise or physical activity throughout the day

You can prevent or possibly eliminate diabetes if you:

1. Engage in at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise or physical activity most days of the week

2. Eat smaller, more frequent meals and reduce your caloric intake to prevent weight gain. Some people find it helpful to watch the glycemic index of the starchy or sugary foods that they eat, only eating foods with a glycemic index of less than 55.  Glycemic index diets can seem complicated, but once you put the guidelines into daily practice you learn which foods are acceptable and which are not.  The numbers are based on how rapidly the human body breaks down the starch in various foods, and they are often not what you would expect.  For example, a sweet potato has a glycemic index of 54 while a regular baked potato has a glycemic index of 85.

3. Reduce your weight to within acceptable levels

Blood Pressure is the force of the blood against the arterial wall.kristen  Malignant hypertension is the word for the worst type of high B/P. That is when the blood pressure usually requires medical intervention to control and there is risk of impending stroke.  Blood pressure out of control is the leading cause of stroke.  It is called the “silent killer” because there are rarely symptoms of high or elevated blood pressure.  It can happen suddenly or slowly over time, which is why it is important to check it regularly.  Also, blood pressure readings are highly individualized, what might be low for one is actually high for another.  There are a variety of prescriptions for controlling blood pressure before it gets into a hypertensive crisis.  Yet, there are many things we can do to prevent the blood pressure from getting or staying in a high range, rest and relaxation work wonders.

Blood pressure

Systolic/ Diastolic, top/bottom #

Normal <120 AND <80

Pre-hypertension 120-139 or 80-89

Stage 1

Hypertension 140-159 or 90-99

Stage 2

Hypertension ≥ 160 or ≥ 100

Source: American College of Sports Medicine

You may be at risk if you:

1. Have a family history of hypertension

2. Smoke, drink alcohol excessively, or don’t exercise on a regular basis

3. Have difficulty managing ongoing stress

4. Are overweight or obese

You can lower your blood pressure if you:

1. Begin a regular exercise program and incorporate more physical activity into your daily routine

2. Learn how to manage stress more effectively: meditate, take stretch breaks, take a stroll, look at a picture book or a fish tank, eliminate drama from your daily routine, walk away from anxiety or anger provoking situations, seek out support groups for any difficult tasks you might be trying to achieve, seek out tranquility and serenity, seek counseling or therapy if needed.

3. Reduce your daily sodium intake to under 2400 mg/day, and read lables.

4. Quit smoking, limit alcohol intake, avoid caffeine and maintain a healthy weight!

images (2)BMI and waist circumference are sort of interrelated.  The point is to try to maintain or achieve a body weight that is appropriate for your height and a waist circumference that is appropriate for your frame if male or female.  The body mass index is not a very good indicator over overall body mass.  There are charts for this HT:WT ratio or BMI all over the internet but they do not take into account muscle mass or % body fat.  Knowing your BMI and waist circumference will; however, indicate if you are on the right track or not.  Too much fat on our bodies predisposes us to numerous disease conditions, makes it difficult to breath or to walk, puts a strain on our joints, can lead to depression and generally just feeling bad.  It also affects our self-esteem.

(BMI or body mass index)

Normal, Overweight, Obese (BMI or body mass index)

18.5-24.9,      25-29.9,          ≥30

Source: American College of Sports Medicine

Waist Circumference

Normal Increased Risk

Men: ≤40” Men: >40”

Women: ≤35” Women: >35”

There are literally tons of nutritional plans, dietary aids, support groups and weight loss clinics out there on the market.  The basic concepts to remember are limit fat and calorie content, avoid simple sugars, increase exercise and reduce stress.  Eat six small meals a day instead of two or three big ones.  Don’t skip meals (it tricks your body into storing fat).

Knowing your numbers, how they relate to the norms, what they mean, and how you can improve them is a start to a healthier lifestyle, and a happier healthier heart!  ~ Susan Nicholls, R.N., Wellness Screener/Counselor


13 thoughts on “Healthy Heart: Know Your Numbers!

    • I am trying to discipline myself more to taking 30 min breaks away from the computer to swim, walk, stretch, read a book. It gets tough on days when I really feel I need to focus on my books.

  1. Thank you for the article! I try to incorporate a lot of the healthy eating, reducing stress (as best I can, lol) and exercise into my routine as much as possible. I wasn’t aware of the numbers as far as the cholesterol. I’m going to keep a copy on my fridge! Invaluable information that everyone should have. Lily

    • Thanks. I am glad you found it useful. I wish I could say that I always follow my own advice, but one of the reasons I wrote this article is because I have been slacking lately and needed to review to remind myself.

      • I slack every so often as well, especially when it comes to reducing stress. I don’t intentionally set out to be stressed out, but it just happens sometimes. It’s something I work on everyday. I’ve found that my writing helps me with stress relief a lot also. If I could, I’d be writing 24/7, but then I wouldn’t sleep much. I guess that would defeat the purpose. 🙂

  2. Pingback: What Is Your ‘Health Age’ and How Do You Lower It?

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