We rely on numbers to accurately assess how good or bad something is. But, men, when was the last time you paid attention to the numbers that could actually save your life?
There are four numbers every man needs to know to get a true evaluation of your heart’s health – numbers that can provide an early warning something is seriously wrong.
- Blood pressure
- HDL (good cholesterol)
- LDL (bad cholesterol)
- Your waist line
Here’s a quick guide to help you see how your numbers measure up:
1. Blood pressure
Your blood pressure consists of two numbers: Your systolic pressure and your diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure measures the pressure of blood against artery walls when the heart is pumping blood. The second number — diastolic pressure — measures the same pressure when your heart is between beats. Ideally, both of these numbers will be in the “healthy” range. So what range is considered healthy?
- Normal blood pressure is anything less than 120/70.
- Prehypertension is between 120–129/70–79.
- Hypertension Stage 1 is between 130–139/80–89.
- Hypertension Stage 2 is anything greater than 140/90.
Almost 1 in 3 adult men has hypertension. As higher blood pressure forces the heart to work harder to transport blood throughout the body, this can increase your chances of a heart attack or stroke.
2. HDL – “good” cholesterol
Not all cholesterol is bad. HDL is known as the “good cholesterol,” because it protects the heart by reducing plaque in your arteries. You want your HDL number to be as high as possible.
The target HDL level for men is 45 or higher. Exercise, especially high-intensity resistance training, is the best way for men to increase their HDL number.
3. LDL – “bad” cholesterol
LDL is the number that doctors focus on when looking at heart health because it can be a predictor for heart attack. LDL is stickier than HDL, making it more likely to build up inside blood vessels and create blockage over time.
An LDL level that is less than 100 is considered optimal for most people. However, if you have heart disease, diabetes, kidney, or carotid disease, it’s ideal to see a number less than 70.
4. Waist line
One of the most telling numbers is one that you don’t need lab work to get. The circumference of your waist can predict your risk of heart disease better than any other number. For men, if your waist size is equal to or more than 40 inches, it can lead to many health risks.
Visceral fat, the fat that develops around your waist, is the worst kind of fat. It is hormonally different than fats you find in other spots on your body, and can bring along more serious health problems, including an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
Keep an eye on your numbers with annual wellness check-ups with your doctor. Don’t have a doctor? Find one here.