24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (877)SAFEGBC or (877)723-3422 Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues

6502 Nursery Drive, Suite 100
Victoria, TX 77904
Fax: (361)578-5500
Regular Business Hours: Monday - Friday 8am - 5pm
Every 3rd Thursday of the Month - Extended Hours Until 7 pm

Medical Disorders
Basic InformationLookupsLatest News
New Hope Against Diseases Marked by Progressive Scarring of Lung TissueAHA News: What Heart and Stroke Patients Should Know About COVID-19 VaccinesCOVID Pandemic Shortened U.S. Life Expectancy by More Than a YearShorter COVID Quarantine for College Athletes a Good Idea, Study FindsWhat Happened to the Flu This Year?3 Steps Could Nearly Eliminate COVID Infections on College Campuses: StudyPharmacy Chains Ready to Supply COVID-19 Vaccines to AmericansI've Already Had COVID-19, Do I Need the Vaccine?What Will COVID-19 Look Like Years From Now?First Computer Model of Entire COVID Virus Will Aid ResearchStopping Common Heart Meds Could Be Risky for Kidney PatientsU.S. COVID Vaccine Rollout Nears 1 Million Doses Per DayJohnson & Johnson's One-Dose COVID Vaccine Promising in Early TrialLockdowns' Benefits for Air Quality Weren't as Big as Thought: StudyPeople's 'Microbiomes' Might Influence COVID-19 Severity: StudyNew Insights Into How COVID-19 Damages the BrainCollege Campuses Are COVID 'Superspreaders,' Study FindsStuck at Home, Suffering With COVID? Experts Offer Guidance on CareCOVID Daily Death Toll Sets New U.S. Record, Soars Past 4,400AHA News: Registries Could Offer Insight Into COVID-19's Impact on College Athletes' HeartsResearch Reveals Why COVID Pneumonia Is More DeadlyPandemic Is Tied to Big Rise in U.S. Heart DeathsCommon Diabetes Meds Tied to Serious COVID-19 ComplicationPlant-Based Diet Brings Better 'Microbiome,' Healthier LifeAnswering Your Qs on the New COVID VaccinesEven Mild Cases of COVID Can Leave 'Long-Haul' Illness, Study ShowsCommon Blood Pressure Meds Won't Up Risks for COVID Patients: StudySix Months Later, Most Wuhan COVID Survivors Still Have Health IssuesHealth Officials Work to Speed Up U.S. COVID Vaccine RolloutAllergists' Group Offers Guidelines on COVID-19 VaccinesFacebook Posts Big Drivers in Vaccine Resistance, Study FindsBlack Patients at Higher Risk When Type 1 Diabetes and COVID CombineBiden Says He Will Release All Vaccine Doses After Taking Office'Pandemic Fatigue' Setting in? Here's How to Stay Safe and StrongCould High Pollen Levels Trigger Pelvic Pain?Record Number of COVID Cases, Deaths Reported in U.S.COVID Survivors' Plasma Might Prevent Worsening Illness in Older Patients: StudyAHA News: Dr. Dre Recovering From a Brain Aneurysm. What Is That?Certain Antibiotics Linked With Upped Risk for Deadly Aortic AneurysmsDeath Risk Nearly Doubles When COVID Strikes People With Heart FailureMore Infectious COVID Variant Likely Widespread in the U.S., Experts SayRed Cross Issues Call for More Blood Plasma to Treat COVID PatientsPediatricians' Group Says School Is Priority, With Proper Safety MeasuresMoves, Evictions Often Trigger Harmful Breaks in Health Care: StudyAllergic Reactions to COVID Vaccines Are Rare, Resolved on Site: CDCSurvey Shows Mental Woes Spiked in U.S. Pandemic's First MonthsYour 'To-Do' List as You Await a COVID VaccineSome Americans Can't Access Telemedicine, Study ShowsU.S. COVID Hospitalizations Reach Record High as California Hospitals Run Out of OxygenVaccine Rollout Could Have Americans Back to Normalcy by Summer, Expert Says
Questions and AnswersLinks
Related Topics


AHA News: 5 Easy Ways to Keep Tabs on Heart Health

HealthDay News
Updated: Jul 29th 2020

new article illustration

WEDNESDAY, July 29, 2020 (American Heart Association News) -- Tracking a few simple numbers can be a big help in keeping tabs on heart health.

But you need to pay attention to those numbers long before your doctor says they're an urgent concern, said Nicole Spartano, a research assistant professor in the department of endocrinology, diabetes, nutrition and weight management at Boston University School of Medicine.

She likened it to watching warning signs on a highway: Paying attention now alerts you to problems that might appear down the road.

"Just because you haven't reached whatever threshold is there for the diagnosis doesn't necessarily mean you're in the clear in terms of whatever physiological measure you're tracking," she said.

Blood pressure is particularly crucial, said Dr. Raymond R. Townsend, professor of medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

"There is nothing more important to living longer, and living with a functioning heart and brain, than attending to an elevated blood pressure," he said. "You need to be sure of what your BP numbers are because if you don't measure it, you cannot manage it."

A health care provider can tell you specific targets. But in general, here are some important ones to track.

Blood pressure

Blood pressure is a measure of the force of your blood as it pushes against blood vessel walls. The American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association define normal blood pressure as a reading of less than 120/80 mmHg. Top number, or systolic, readings of 130-139 or bottom, diastolic, readings of 80-89 mmHg are considered Stage 1 hypertension. Consistent readings of 140/90 mmHg or higher are considered Stage 2 hypertension.

Townsend said even in the pandemic, it's important to work with a health care provider to make sure you're getting accurate readings.

"If you have access to a home blood pressure kit, we rely on in-home readings to help us manage blood pressure," he said. Use a validated monitor – a list is available at validateBP.org – and check it once a year against a medical-grade device at a doctor's office or clinic.

"The key is taking it correctly," he said. "Even the most validated monitor will yield bad readings if you don't prepare yourself to have a BP measurement, position yourself correctly, and take the actual readings properly."

Blood sugar

Also known as blood glucose, blood sugar comes from the food you eat. In a fasting blood sugar test, readings of 100 to 125 mg/dL are considered prediabetes, which means a risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. Readings of 126 or higher on more than one occasion are considered diabetes.

Spartano said it's relatively easy to monitor blood glucose at home. "I wouldn't say it's necessary for everyone, but it definitely is of interest to some people. And some of those glucometers do connect to apps."


A blood test will show levels of different types of this waxy, fatlike substance in your blood that is linked to cardiovascular disease. A doctor can use these results, along with the other numbers, to give a detailed assessment of heart disease risk.

There are at-home cholesterol tests, but Spartano doesn't recommend them.

Body mass index or waist measurement

These are measures of obesity. If you know your height and weight, you can use an online calculator, such as the one at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. And research shows waist-to-hip ratio measurement may be a better indicator of heart attack risk than body mass index, especially in women.


Adults need at least seven hours of sleep a night, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. But sleeping too much may be just as harmful as sleeping too little.

Recent research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found sleeping less than six hours a night or more than nine was associated with poorer cardiovascular health.

Overall, Spartano, whose work includes collecting data from fitness trackers for the long-running Framingham Heart Study, said tracking your numbers doesn't have to be complicated. Apps can help, but the age-old method of writing in a diary works well, too.

The mere act of tracking can help you initiate healthy changes, she said.

She also emphasized the importance of one more number: 150. That's the minimum weekly number of minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise recommended for adults. But you don't have to start at that level.

"It seems maybe daunting, but actually the most significant benefit is going from very little to just slightly more activity, and that can be at any intensity level," she said.

Healthy eating also is crucial, Spartano said.

And nobody should feel frustrated if all of these efforts take time, she said. "Just because you don't see any single one of these numbers changing doesn't mean that you're not improving your health in a different way."