One of the strongest predictors for heart disease is measured in two numbers
-- your blood
pressure. You hear the numbers, but do you know what they mean?
The first or top number is systolic blood pressure -- the
pressure of blood against artery walls during a heartbeat, when the heart is
The second number is diastolic blood pressure -- the
pressure of blood against artery walls between heartbeats, when the heart is
filling with blood.
Normal blood pressure is 119/79 or below.
Prehypertension is 120 to 139 (systolic) and/or 80 to 89 (diastolic).
Do these numbers seem a bit lower than you remember? What's considered a
normal blood pressure was redefined in May 2003 when guidelines were revised to
include a new category -- prehypertension.
Experts recommend that people with prehypertension -- an estimated 45
million men and women -- make heart-healthy lifestyle changes to reduce their
risk of blood pressure complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage.
Probably the most familiar heart disease risk factor, cholesterol is a type of fat that is an essential
nutrient for your body. However, too much cholesterol -- or not enough of the
good type of cholesterol -- floating around in your blood increases your risk
for hardening of the arteries that can lead to heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Cholesterol is considered abnormal when:
Total cholesterol is 200 or higher.
HDL or "good" cholesterol level is less
LDL or "bad" cholesterol is more than 160
(or lower if you have risk factors) -- with 190 and above being very
high. However, the lower the LDL, the better. An LDL less than 100 is
considered optimal; 100 to 129 is near optimal; 130 to 159 is borderline
3) Body Mass Index (BMI)
This is an indirect measure of your body fat, a quick way to see if you are
overweight. BMI may be overestimated in people with a lot of muscle mass, such
as body builders. It may also be underestimated in older people who have very
little muscle mass.
BMI uses a person's weight and height to gauge total body fat. You can use
WebMD's BMI calculator to determine