Do You Have a Healthy Heart?

Angela Moore
Angela Moore

| 5 min read

Every year in February, we observe American Heart Month to raise awareness about heart health and cardiovascular disease. The goal is to encourage people to prioritize their heart health by focusing on heart healthy behaviors, learning about heart disease prevention, and making healthy lifestyle choices that support cardiovascular health, as well as supporting those affected by cardiovascular conditions.
As a NASM Master Trainer with a specialization in fitness nutrition and as a licensed counselor, I understand the importance of knowing key numbers but also of knowing what actions you can take to integrate healthy lifestyle behaviors into your daily life to improve your physical and mental health and overall wellbeing.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States.
  • One person dies every 33 seconds in the U.S. from cardiovascular disease.
  • In the U.S., someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds.
Like many chronic diseases, knowing and tracking key numbers and integrating healthy lifestyle choices and behaviors can prevent heart disease as well as have a positive impact on overall health and wellbeing.

What are key numbers for heart health?

  • Blood pressure
  • Good cholesterol
  • Bad cholesterol
Normal blood pressure readings should be less than 120/80 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). The upper number (systolic) should be less than 120 and the bottom number (diastolic) should be less than 80.

The American Heart Association recognizes a total of five blood pressure ranges:

  • Normal: 120/80 mm Hg
  • Elevated: Readings that are consistently within the range 120-129 (systolic) and less than 80 (diastolic) increasing the likelihood that you will develop high blood pressure unless proactive strategies are implemented to control the condition.
  • Hypertension Stage 1: Readings that are consistently within the range of 130 to 139 (systolic) and 80 to 89 (diastolic), increasing your risks of heart attack or stroke.
  • Hypertension Stage 2: Readings are consistently 140/90 mm Hg or higher and typically warrant prescription intervention of blood pressure medications and lifestyle changes.
  • Hypertensive Crisis: Readings abruptly exceed 180/120 mm Hg and subsequent reading is unusually high requiring medical attention.
Equally important to heart health is knowing and understanding your good and bad cholesterol. Yes, both are important.
Cholesterol is a substance found in your blood that is needed by the body to build healthy cells. Cholesterol is carried through the blood attached to proteins and the combination of protein and cholesterol forms a lipoprotein. The “different types of cholesterol are based on what the lipoprotein carries,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Here is how the Mayo clinic defines the different types of cholesterol:
  • Bad cholesterol or LDL (low-density lipoprotein) “transports cholesterol particles throughout the body and builds up in the walls of the arteries making them hard and narrow.”
  • Good cholesterol or HDL (high density lipoprotein) “picks up excess cholesterol and transports it back to the liver.”
It is important to note that lipid profiles often measure triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood. A healthy triglyceride number is below 150 milligrams per deciliters (mg/dL) for adults. High numbers increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. 
It is also important to understand your blood sugar levels which are typically measured by a fasting glucose reading. A healthy glucose number is lower than 100 mg/dL.
Fortunately, as mentioned earlier, by integrating healthy lifestyle choices and behaviors into your life, you can prevent heart disease as well as positively impact your overall health and wellbeing.
The American Heart Association developed Life’s Essential 8 which are key measures for improving and maintaining cardiovascular health focused on two major areas: health behaviors and health factors. These key measures are:
  1. Eat better
  2. Be more active
  3. Quit tobacco
  4. Get healthy sleep
  5. Manage weight
  6. Control cholesterol
  7. Manage blood sugar
  8. Manage blood pressure
Each day is an opportunity to eat better by eating whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy sources of protein, nuts, and seeds. Each day is also an opportunity to be more active by performing a structured workout and/or integrating short bouts of physical activity throughout the day as well as getting healthy sleep so that you feel rested and have sufficient energy. By eating well, exercising, and getting healthy sleep, you will be able to better manage your weight.
For smokers, the decision to quit tobacco may be a tough decision. In fact, it may be one of the hardest decisions to make, but the health of your heart and your life depends on it. The use of nicotine products is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
Now that you know your key numbers and the heart healthy lifestyle behaviors that you can easily integrate into your daily life, you can better manage your blood sugar, blood pressure as well as control your cholesterol.
I encourage you to take it one day at a time, one step at a time, and know that every effort you make to become healthier increases your chance of living a healthier and happier life for many years to come. Here’s to a healthier heart and a healthier YOU!
Opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or its subsidiaries and affiliates.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Angela Moore

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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