Women: Know your heart-healthy stats

May 03, 2016 | by Jacqueline Ross, M.D.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S. While that fact is sobering, women can be proactive about their heart health.

The following are important numbers you need to know to help keep your heart healthy. Discuss these with your physician as part of your annual physical.

Blood pressure

Blood pressure is the amount of force exerted on the arteries when the heart beats. High blood pressure, or hypertension, causes damaged and blocked arteries and is a major risk factor for heart disease. A well-balanced diet and exercise can help reduce blood pressure.

  • Goal: Less than 120/80 mmHg
  • If 140/90 mmHg or higher, the risk for heart disease increases

Cholesterol

Too much cholesterol in the blood builds up in the walls of the arteries which, over time, causes blood flow to the heart to be slowed down or blocked. Lowering cholesterol levels that are too high lessens the risk for heart disease. Diet and exercise can lower your cholesterol level. Triglycerides (another form of fat in the blood) can also raise heart disease risk, so keeping your triglycerides low is important as well.

  • Goal: Total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL
  • HDL or “good” cholesterol 50-60 mg/dL or higher for women
  • LDL or “bad” cholesterol less than 100 mg/dL
  • Triglyceride level less than 150 mg/dL

Glucose

People with pre-diabetes or diabetes have higher levels of blood sugar. This can damage nerves and blood vessels, which can lead to heart disease.

  • Goal (for fasting blood sugar): Less than 99 mg/dL
  • Pre-diabetes level 100-125 mg/dL
  • Diabetes is diagnosed at 126 mg/dL and above

Body mass index

Obesity can lead to high cholesterol, diabetes and stroke. Body Mass Index (BMI) measures percentage of body fat.

  • Goal: 18.5-24.9
  • If BMI is higher than 30, talk to your doctor about a plan for getting down to a healthier weight.

Waist size

The more fat a woman stores around her midsection, the greater her risk for high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes — all of which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

  • Goal: Less than 35 inches

Learn more about cardiac care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Find out if you’re at risk for heart disease.

Jacqueline Ross, MD, is a board certified family medicine physician with Elmhurst Memorial Medical Group.

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