Know Your Numbers

February 6, 2017

Taking an active role in your health can help you ensure a long and healthy life. One step in taking charge of your health is knowing your heart health, particularly three key numbers: 

  1. Blood pressure
  2. Cholesterol levels
  3. Waist size

Blood Pressure

  • One in three adults in the U.S. – about 74 million people – has high blood pressure, many of whom may not realize it. It is important to know what your blood pressure and if it falls in a normal range. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80
  • Pre-hypertension is 120 to 139/80 to 89
  • Hypertension (known as high blood pressure) is 140/90 or higher


You might be confused by all of the numbers associated with cholesterol.  Some are “good” and some are “bad.” When your doctor measures cholesterol they are really talking about three different, but equally important, numbers: HDL, LDL and triglycerides.  HDL is the high density lipoprotein, or “good”, cholesterol. LDL, or low density lipoprotein, is the “bad” cholesterol. HDL carries LDL out of the arteries, protecting against the build-up of plaque and hardening of arteries.  So while you want your LDL to be low, it is actually good to have a higher range of HDL. Triglycerides are type of fat that is used to store excess energy derived from the foods you eat.

Now that you know what you’re monitoring, here are the numbers to strive for:

  • Total cholesterol of 200 or below
  • HDL (good cholesterol) 50 or higher for women or 40 or higher for men
  • LDL (bad cholesterol) 100 or below
  • Triglycerides of 150 or below

Waist Size

According to the American Heart Association, your waist size is one of the best predictors of heart disease risk.  A waist size equal to or greater than 35 inches in women and equal to or greater than 40 inches in men increases risk of heart disease. 

At every appointment with your primary care doctor, make sure you understand what these three numbers mean for your health and what, if any, changes you might need to do to help keep them in a healthy range.

If you don't have a primary care provider, use our "Find a Provider" tool to help you find one.