Know Your Numbers to Reduce Risk of Developing Heart Disease

Industry: Healthcare

Intermountain Health caregivers are working to educate Utahns about ways to enhance their heart health.

Salt Lake City, UT (PRUnderground) February 14th, 2023

February is American Heart Month, a time when people can focus on their heart health. The Intermountain Health Heart and Vascular Program is working to educate Utahns about ways to enhance their heart health.

“Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women,” said Viet Le, PA-C, Intermountain Health. “One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. And about 659,000 people in the United States die from heart disease each year. That’s one in every four deaths.”

To help people reduce their risk of heart disease, heart experts from Intermountain Health recommend that people know their heart “numbers”.

These include:

  1. Blood pressure
  2. Body mass index
  3. Blood sugar levels
  4. Total cholesterol level
  5. HDL cholesterol level
  1. Blood Pressure

“Blood pressure is the force of your blood against your arteries,” said Le. He explains it is measured with two numbers: your systolic pressure, or the pressure of the blood against your artery walls when your heart squeezes and pumps out blood, and your diastolic pressure, or the pressure of the blood against your artery walls when your heart rests between beats.

“An example of a blood pressure reading is 120/80, read as ‘120 over 80’,” said Le.

While blood pressure will change throughout the day, Le said it’s important to know that:

  • If your blood pressure is 120/80 most of the time, it is considered normal
  • If your blood pressure is more than 120/80 but less than 140/90 most of the time, it is considered hypertension.
  • If your blood pressure is usually 140/90 or higher, it is considered hypertension, or high blood pressure

“High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease because it puts a strain on your heart and arteries,” said Le. “Over time, your heart may become weak, and your arteries may become stiff and less able to move blood throughout your body. This can lead to serious, even life-threatening problems like heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.”

  1. Body Mass Index

Body mass index, or BMU uses height and weight to measure the amount of body fat. Having too much body fat can raise the risk for heart disease and other medical conditions.

Le encourages people to calculate their BMI by using a tool from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. BMI will fall into one of these ranges:

  • less than 18.5 = underweight
  • 18.5 to 24.9 = normal weight
  • 25 to 29.9 = overweight
  • 30 or greater = obese

“Being overweight raises your risk for heart disease and is linked to other serious conditions, like diabetes,” said Le. “Maintaining a healthy weight can benefit your health in general and goes a long way to lowering your risk for heart disease.”

  1. Blood Sugar Level

Blood sugar level, also called your blood glucose level, shows the amount of sugar in the blood. “Blood sugar levels change throughout the day as you eat and digest food,” said Le. He adds that when blood sugar is tested, patients are asked to not eat for several hours before the test, and their results will fall into one of these ranges:

  • Less than 100 mg/dl = normal
  • 100 to 125 mg/dl = prediabetes
  • 126 mg/dl or higher = diabetes

“If you have diabetes, your body isn’t able to make or properly use a hormone called insulin,” said Le. “Insulin helps move sugar from your bloodstream into your cells, so your blood sugar level will be higher. Over time, this can damage your heart and blood vessels.”

  1. Total Cholesterol Level

Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found in the blood and all of the body’s cells. While the body needs some cholesterol to help digest food and make hormones, too much can lead to heart disease.

Total cholesterol includes:

  • HDL, or “good” cholesterol. HDL helps take away some LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, from your blood.
  • LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. LDL can cause the buildup of plaque in your blood vessels.
  • Triglycerides, a type of fat. Triglycerides are also linked to plaque buildup.

A simple blood test can measure total cholesterol level, and results will be:

  • 200 mg/dL or lower = normal
  • 200 – 239 mg/dL = borderline high
  • 240 mg/dL or higher = high

“Having too much cholesterol in your blood cause plaque to build up in your blood vessels in a condition called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Over time, this can make your blood vessels narrow, or even totally blocked, leading to a heart attack or stroke,” said Le.

  1. HDL Cholesterol Level

HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is known as “good” cholesterol because it helps take away some of the LDL from the blood. Individuals want a higher level of HDL in their total cholesterol.

For example:

  • HDL of 60 or greater = high
  • HDL of 40 or lower = low

Le said, “Once you know your blood pressure, BMI, blood sugar level, total cholesterol level, and HDL cholesterol level, you can talk with your doctor about how to manage and lower your risks for heart disease and serious problems like heart attack and stroke.”

“If your numbers are in healthy ranges, your doctor can tell you how often to come back for checkups to make sure they stay that way. But if not, your doctor can suggest lifestyle changes, like eating a heart-healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, quitting smoking, and finding healthy ways to cope with stress, or give you medicines that can help you control your blood pressure, diabetes, or cholesterol,” said Le.

For more information, go to

About Intermountain Health

Headquartered in Utah with locations in seven states and additional operations across the western U.S., is a nonprofit system of 33 hospitals, 385 clinics, medical groups with some 3,900 employed physicians and advanced care providers, a health plans division called SelectHealth with more than one million members, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For more information or updates, see

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