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Know Your Numbers

While there are congenital forms of heart disease that are passed along from one generation to the next, the more common forms of heart disease are directly related to our lifestyle.

Called the "silent killer," heart disease symptoms can build up slowly over time and often go unnoticed until the disease is firmly established.

However, you can reduce your risk of heart disease by exercising regularly, eating healthy foods and keeping track of five vital numbers:

BMI (Body Mass Index)

A high BMI usually points to excess body weight, which causes your heart to pump harder in order to circulate your blood. Government guidelines suggest that a BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 indicates that you may be overweight. A BMI of 30 or more indicates obesity.

Total Cholesterol and HDL

Cholesterol has three main components: Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL), which help deposit fats in the body; High Density Lipoproteins (HDL), which help eliminate fats in the body; and Triglycerides, a common fat in the body. An ideal total cholesterol level is under 200. If your total level is 240 or above, you are at an increased risk for heart disease. You should also monitor your HDL level. A good HDL is 50 or above. If it is under 40, you are at a higher risk for heart disease.

Blood Sugar

Too much unconverted sugar in the blood system makes the heart pump harder, adding stress to the muscle. A fasting plasma glucose test, taken in the morning before any food or drink, will have a normal reading below 100. You may have diabetes if your result is above 126.

Blood Pressure

High blood pressure indicates that the heart is working much harder to circulate your blood. A blood pressure reading of less than 120 over 80 is considered normal. A reading between 120-39 over 80-89 is classified as pre-hypertension. Having several accurate blood pressure readings that are consistently 140 over 90 or higher is indicative of hypertension. Blood pressure for people with Type 2 diabetes should be below 130/80.

We encourage you to take these numbers back to your physician to discuss a plan of action. By monitoring these numbers, you can significantly reduce your heart disease risk.