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Revealed - the five numbers that you need to keep in check for a healthy heart!

Revealed - the five numbers that you need to keep in check for a healthy heart!

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : February 10, 2014 8:28 AM IST

HeartAccording to a doctor, five numbers that dictate your heart health are your blood pressure, Body Mass Index, waist circumference, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. 'These are the numbers doctors use to assess someone's risk for getting heart disease, both short term and throughout their lifetime,' Dr Martha Gulati, director of preventive cardiology and women's cardiovascular health at Ohio State's Ross Heart Hospital, said. 'When you monitor these numbers, you are empowered to work with your doctor to improve your heart health,' she said.

Gulati said that the most important numbers to know are blood pressure levels, Body Mass Index, waist circumference, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. A normal blood pressure is under 120/80. Talk to your doctor if it is higher than that. Simple lifestyle changes can help you lower your blood pressure and potentially avoid medication.

Body Mass Index is the measurement of your weight for your body surface area and it's considered a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people. A BMI less than 18.5 is underweight. Below 25 is normal. A BMI of 25 through 29.9 is overweight, and 30 or higher is considered obese. Read how every other Indian is obese!

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Fat that is carried around the abdomen increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Measure your waist at the belly button, not where your clothing waistband sits.

Gulati said that women should be at least less than 35 inches and men should be less than 40 inches at the waist. While the body makes all of the cholesterol it needs, it is also readily found in food. Read how a big belly will kill you

Cholesterol is a fat/ lipid that is produced in the liver and its normal levels are necessary for the proper functioning of the body. When cholesterol levels are in the normal range, in a healthy body, the blood flows freely through the veins and arteries. High cholesterol can lead to heart disease and atherosclerosis, or build-up of plaque in the arteries. Gulati says it's important to know your total cholesterol number and your low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, number. A healthy cholesterol number is below 200. A healthy LDL number is below 100. Blood sugar reading tells doctors how much glucose is in the blood. High levels of blood glucose cause diabetes, which increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. A healthy fasting blood sugar number is under 100 after not eating for eight hours.

Tips for a healthier heart

Kick the butt

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)estimates that smoking increases the chance of suffering from a coronary heart disease by two to four times by reducing blood circulation due to narrowed arteries. Scarily, 92 million out of India's 285 million smokers don't even know that it's bad for their heart. Along with cardiovascular diseases smoking is responsible for other diseases like cancer as well and affects almost every organ in the body. And if that's still not enough impetus to quit smoking, consider the fact that second hand smoke kills 600,000 people every year out of which 100,000 are children and 87% of deaths due to second hand smoke are due to cardiovascular diseases. So kick the butt now, if not for yourself then for your near and dear ones whom you're exposing to second hand smoke.

Various techniques to quit smoking

Drink moderately

Alcohol's effect on the heart is hotly debated. Numerous studies have found that people, who drink moderately, actually have better cardiovascular health than people who don't drink or those who dod excessively. Moderate means either 330ml of beer, 60ml of hard liquor or 100ml of wine. However, others have debunked these results claiming that there isn't even a way to define moderate and such revelations could lead to misunderstanding and increased drinking. What is not debatable is the fact that excessive drinking is tied to various cardiovascular issues like obesity, high blood pressure and increased risk to coronary artery disease. Binge drinking (drinking excessively in a short amount of time) too is linked to poor cardiovascular health.

Work up a sweat

Our current sedentary lifestyle has played a major part in the rise of cardiovascular diseases around the world. Lack of exercise leads to build-up of bad cholesterol which prevents the blood from flowing freely and causes hypertension, heart attacks, etc. Exercising plays a very important role in your cardiovascular health. It facilitates weight loss, lowers blood pressure, increases your good 'cholesterol' level, improves blood circulation and allows your heart to pump more efficiently. In fact it helps reduce stress also by releasing feel good hormones called endorphins!

Click here to read about cardio exercises that are good for your heart!

Sleep properly

It's been suggested in jest that Thomas Edison's light bulb is responsible for the current obesity pandemic. While that would be stretching the truth a bit too much, the fact remains that our current work-play around the clock routine does have a hand in the various lifestyle diseases. It has been suggested that initially our body's internal clock was adapted to the natural day-light schedule and exposure to artificial light has thrown it off-track. This has also led to various kinds of sleep disorders which in turn impacts your appetite causing obesity, glucose metabolism and increases blood pressure. It's a vicious cycle really and getting enough sleep is very important to keep heart disease at bay.

Read how to deal with insomnia or sleep disorders

Reduce intake of saturated and trans-fats

They are basically two kinds of fats saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are present in food items like butter, red meat, dairy products, chocolates, etc. and are known to raise 'LDL' or bad cholesterol levels and most dieticians recommend limiting their intake. Trans-fats are unsaturated fats which have the same effect. Manufactured food items usually contain a lot of trans-fats and that's why nutritionists suggest avoiding them. Read more

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