Your Must-Know Personal Stats for Heart Health
Now that American Heart Month is coming to a close, we wanted to end on more of a serious note.
While some of the advice geared toward heart health might seem like common sense, for example, watching your weight and reducing the amount of sodium in your diet, there are some things that require more careful contemplation. Things like your personal health statistics.
Although you may not love going to the doctor, going in for a routine physical (aka a basic appointment where you’re not going in because you have an ailment) is an important part of taking control of your health.
Think about it, if you never go to the doctor, but suddenly need to because you’re having a problem, it’s going to be a longer process of coming to a solution because there’s no record of your body in it’s usual state.
So if you haven’t seen the doc in awhile, here’s a few stats you’ll be checked for that are important to note:
As with many other aspects of our health, blood pressure can be affected by several factors such as our stress levels, diet, lack of exercise or even our family history.
Some people naturally have higher or lower blood pressures, but only through regular monitoring of your blood pressure will you know if something is off.
For example, high blood pressure runs in my family, my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all had high blood pressure, so I am inevitably at a higher risk due to genetics. Thankfully my blood pressure sits on the lower side (I’m assuming that also comes from a healthy diet and regular exercise), but without knowing my baseline, I wouldn’t know what would constitute “high blood pressure” for me because my version of high blood pressure could be someone else’s “normal.”
Find out where you sit on the scale of blood pressure and keep note of it. Making lifestyle changes earlier allows for better prevention of high blood pressure, which is more likely to occur as we get older.
So you don’t actually need to go to a doctor to get this stat (whoop whoop!), but knowing your resting heart rate as well as your target heart rate are important metrics to know.
Your resting heart rate is how many beats your heart takes per minute while you’re not doing any activity and is a good measurement to determine your level of fitness. A good time to take your resting heart rate would be in the morning before you get out of bed. Find your pulse, count your pulse for 10 seconds and then multiply that number by six to receive your resting heart rate.
According to the National Institute of Health, the average resting heart rate for children 10 years and older, and adults (including seniors) is 60 – 100 beats per minute.
You can then take it a step further by determining your target heart rate zone, which you can then use to determine if you’re pushing yourself hard enough while exercising.
Although it might seem like a pain to calculate your target heart rate while working out, it’s very beneficial to know if you’re making the most of your time in the gym. And trust me, not only will you feel like you did major work when you leave the gym, but working within your target heart rate zone will also have you starting to see results more quickly.
Image via The American Heart Association
When I hear the word “cholesterol” I picture someone in my grandparent’s age bracket, like that word doesn’t really apply to me (I’m in my 20s), and it probably won’t apply for another twenty or so years. Right?
The American Heart Association recommends all adults age 20 or older have their cholesterol checked every four to six years. Again, this provides you and your doctor with a baseline that will allow any increase or decreases in your numbers to be apparent as you get older.
By getting a fasting lipoprotein profile (where you fast for 9 to 12 hours beforehand and then get your blood drawn) you’ll get know your total blood cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides levels, which are indicators of your risk for heart attack and stroke.
Here’s another one you don’t actually have to see your doctor to calculate, however there are some limitations to this measurement, so be aware that your BMI may be influenced by age, gender and ethnicity.
Those are factors that your doctor can take in to consideration when talking about your personal health, but on the most basic level, knowing your BMI is useful in knowing if you’re within a healthy weight range given your height.
Now if you’re already fit, eat a balanced diet, don’t have any weight to lose and you’ve got a considerable amount of lean muscle, you probably don’t need your BMI to tell you where you fall. But if you know you need improvements in your physical fitness and diet, start with your BMI to give you an indicator of how much work you need to do to get within a healthy range (that can mean putting on weight in the form of muscle, or losing fat and gaining muscle).
Your BMI isn’t the end all, be all of measurements, but it’s a good starting place to kick your glutes in gear.