As we approach February, recognized nationally as American Heart Month, it’s important to “know your numbers,” the key indicators for overall heart health. Heart disease, the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S., claims more lives than all forms of cancer combined. Because of this staggering statistic, Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare recommends taking steps to reduce your risk factors and knowing the important indicators of your health.

Take charge over your heart health this February by knowing what your key indicator levels should be and what medical conditions may cause key indicators to be abnormal or unhealthy. Medical conditions strongly correlated with heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and being overweight.

For those who suffer from any of these conditions, it is important to be aware of the following numbers: blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose levels and body mass index (BMI).

Target numbers for each of these indicators should be as follows:

  • Blood pressure should typically be less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic for an adult age 20 or older.
  • A total cholesterol score of less than 180 mg/dL is considered optimal.
  • A BMI range of 18.5 to 24.9 and a waistline smaller than 35 inches is considered healthy.
  • A normal blood sugar level is less than 100 mg/dL after fasting, and less than 140 mg/dL two hours after eating.

The good news is most of these numbers are tested at annual checkups. As important as it is to understand these numbers, it’s equally as important to know your family history and risk of hereditary diseases.

Healthy numbers mean a healthy heart. You can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease by taking the following steps:

  1. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products.
  2. Exercise regularly. Try to walk, run, bike or dance at least 30 minutes, five days a week.
  3. Quit smoking and limit alcohol.
  4. Manage stress by getting enough sleep, taking time for yourself and using meditation or calming techniques.
  5. Visit a physician regularly for annual health checks and determine high-risk medical conditions.

Prevention of heart attack begins with you. “Knowing your numbers”—and how they compare to healthy, normal levels—is a powerful way to take charge of your health.

Oscar Munoz, M.D., is a cardiologist with Del Sol Medical Center.