Heart disease is the cause of 1 in 4 deaths in the United States. There are certain risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease that are outside of your control, such as age, gender, and family health history. However, there are other factors that can be easily managed if you take control and responsibility for your health. The American Heart Association recommends that everyone, dieting or not, know their numbers for total cholesterol, good cholesterol, body mass index, blood pressure, and blood sugar. The numbers will give you and your physician a snapshot of your risk for heart disease.
Total Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in the blood. LDL, or bad cholesterol, is the main cause of plaque that clogs arteries. Unhealthy levels of cholesterol in your blood causes build-up in the walls of the arteries, the arteries to become narrow, and blood flow to the heart to slow.
HDL (Good Cholesterol): HDL, or good cholesterol, carries cholesterol away from the blood stream toward the heart. Maintaining good cholesterol is essential to your overall health and reduces the risk associated with heart disease. Be sure to consult your physician for guidance about what good cholesterol levels for you are.
Body Mass Index (BMI): Those whom are dieting are very familiar with this one. BMI is used to measure if someone is overweight or obese. Per the American Heart Association, a healthy BMI should be between 18.5 and 24.9. Waist circumference is also a factor to consider. People who carry weight in their waist as opposed to their hips are more at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other health conditions.
Blood Pressure: A healthy blood pressure reduces the strain on your vital organs. When your blood pressure is high, there is not enough blood getting to the heart. A good blood pressure reading should include a top number between 90 and 120 and a bottom number between 60 and 80.
Blood Sugar: Heart disease is the leading cause of death among people with diabetes. While the direct correlation between sugar control and heart disease is unclear, there is enough evidence to conclude that uncontrolled blood sugar is a risk factor just like smoking or high cholesterol – not to mention that uncontrolled blood sugar is associated with other risk factors, such as obesity and metabolic syndrome. You can control your blood sugar with healthy dieting meal plans. Your fasting blood sugar should be under 100 mg/dl.