The Difference a Number Can Make
See how your numbers stack up for peace of mind — or a wake-up call
Many numbers are part of your daily life, from your cell phone to your ATM code. But do you know the numbers that are critical to your physical health? Here are the three top numbers you should remember and monitor regularly:
120/80: Optimum blood pressure
There’s a reason high blood pressure (hypertension) is known as the “silent killer.” You can have it for years and never know it. As it damages the walls of your arteries, it also can wreak havoc on your heart, kidneys, and brain. High blood pressure can lead to a heart attack, kidney failure, or stroke.
When you have high blood pressure, the pressure of blood within the arteries — which carry blood from the heart throughout the body — is persistently elevated. Optimal blood pressure in an adult is under 120/80. The range for prehypertension is 120 to 139/80 to 89. High blood pressure is any reading of 140/90 or higher.
99: Blood sugar level
It’s a good idea to have your blood sugar checked. High blood sugar — diabetes — can lead to a host of other medical problems if left unchecked, including vision and circulatory problems. Your optimal blood sugar level should be 99 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood or less. A count of 100 to 125 mg/dL is a pre-diabetes wake-up call; a level of 126 mg/dL or higher indicates diabetes.
200: Optimum cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made by the liver — and not all forms of it are bad. Sometimes, our bodies create too much cholesterol, which then circulates through the blood stream.
To check your cholesterol levels, your doctor will ask you to fast before having blood work drawn. Your test results will show the amount of cholesterol in your blood.
It’s the bad, arteryclogging cholesterol (LDL) that puts you at risk, so shoot for an LDL of under 130 mg/dL. Conversely, the higher your good cholesterol (HDL) the better, because it helps remove harmful LDL from your arteries. An HDL of 50 mg/dL or higher is ideal.
You should aim for a total cholesterol number (HDL + LDL) under 200 mg/dL. A count of 200 to 239 is considered borderline, while levels of 240 and above double your risk of coronary heart disease.
Sources: American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association