Heart Health 101: What Your Numbers say About Your Health

Angela Jenkins

| 3 min read

Nurse measuring a woman's blood pressure.
February is American Heart Month and understanding your numbers is crucial in order to keep instances of heart disease to a minimum.

Understanding Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the arteries when the heart beats (systolic) and when the heart is at rest (diastolic).
Blood pressure is commonly read as 120 over 80. Hypertension refers to a high blood pressure reading.

Normal Blood Pressure Range

  • Less than 120/80 mm/Hg

Types of High Blood Pressure

  • Elevated – 120-129/less than 80
  • Stage 1 Hypertension – 130-139/80-89
  • Stage 2 Hypertension – 140/90 or higher
  • Hypertensive crisis – If blood pressure suddenly exceeds 180/120 and isn’t coming down, contact your doctor immediately.

Cholesterol for Beginners

Cholesterol is the waxy substance that sticks to our arteries. Our bodies produce about 75 percent of the cholesterol we need, the other 25 percent comes from the foods we eat. Our bodies do need some cholesterol, but too much serves as increased risk for heart disease
  • Desirable cholesterol: 200 ml/dL or less
  • Borderline high risk: 200-239 ml/dL
  • High risk: 240 ml/dL and above
Good Cholesterol
High Density Lipids, or HDLs, bind with cholesterol and move it out of the blood and into the liver. The liver then processes and excretes the cholesterol out of the body.

Low HDL Means High Risk for Heart Disease

  • Less than 40 ml/dL for men
  • Less than 50 ml/dL for women

High HDL is Protective Against Heart Disease

  • 60 ml/dL or greater

LDL Levels

Low Density Lipids (bad): LDL: Transports cholesterol in the blood. The higher the LDLs are, the higher precedence for heart disease.
  • Optimal: Less than 100 mg/dL
  • Near or Above Optimal: 100-129 mg/dL
  • Borderline High: 130-150 mg/dL
  • High: 160-189 mg/dL
  • Very High: 190 mg/dL and above

Triglyceride Levels

Triglycerides are the most common fat found in the body. High triglyceride levels are often a common factor in those who suffer from heart disease or diabetes. A high triglyceride level combined with a low HDL level and a high LDL level increases the speed of atherosclerosis, often referred to as hardening of the arteries.
Those with atherosclerosis have an increased risk factor for both heart disease and stroke.
  • Normal: 150 ml/dL or less
  • Borderline high: 150-199 ml/dL
  • High: 200-499 ml/dL
  • Very High: 500 ml/dL or higher

Fasting Blood Glucose Levels

Glucose, or sugar, is the main energy supply for most cells in the body, including the brain. Carbohydrates in your diet are eventually converted to glucose in the blood as well.
  • Normal: 100 mg/dL or less
  • Pre-Diabetic: 100 mg/dL – 125 mg/dL
  • Diabetic: 126 mg/dL or higher

Understanding Your Body Mass Index

BMI or Body Mass Index is the most common method to measure if a person has a healthy weight for their height. To calculate your BMI, there are a number of online calculators you can use.

BMI Categories:

  • Underweight: 18.5 or less
  • Normal weight: 18.5–24.9
  • Overweight: 25–29.9
  • Obesity: 30 or greater
Knowing all of your numbers will decrease your chances of heart disease and heart disease related issues. If your numbers are outside of the “normal” category, talk with your physician. Most times, there is a lot that can be done to bring your levels under control.
If you found this post helpful, check these out:
Photo credit: dragana991

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
No Personal Healthcare Advice or Other Advice
This Web site provides general educational information on health-related issues and provides access to health-related resources for the convenience of our users. This site and its health-related information and resources are not a substitute for professional medical advice or for the care that patients receive from their physicians or other health care providers.
This site and its health-related information resources are not meant to be the practice of medicine, the practice of nursing, or to carry out any professional health care advice or service in the state where you live. Nothing in this Web site is to be used for medical or nursing diagnosis or professional treatment.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed health care provider. Always consult your health care provider before beginning any new treatment, or if you have any questions regarding a health condition. You should not disregard medical advice, or delay seeking medical advice, because of something you read in this site.