Because February is American Heart Month, we want to share more information regarding heart health.  There are some important numbers you should know.  You could keep this list, and the next time you have a physical, including blood work, ask your doctor to explain just exactly where your numbers are. 

  • 120/80 or under is normal blood pressure for adults.
  • Less than 200 mg/dl is a desirable cholesterol level.
  • Less than 100 mg/dl is an optimal level of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.
  • More than 40 mg/dl is a desirable level of HDL, or “good” cholesterol.
  • Less than 150 mg/dl is a desirable level of triglycerides.  This blood fat, like LDL, can make your arteries harden or narrow.
  • Less than 35 inches for women, and less than 40 inches for men, is the best waist size.  Too much fat around the waist ups heart disease risk.  To measure your waist, put a tape measure around your midsection, just above your hips, and breathe out.
  • Between 18.5 and 24.9 is a normal body mass index (BMI).  A higher BMI can increase your risk for heart disease.
  • ZERO is your ideal exposure to tobacco, including secondhand smoke.
  • At least 30 minutes most days is how much to exercise.  Regular exercise can lower your resting heart rate.  According to a recent study in American Heart Journal, a resting heart rate higher than 90 doubled the risk for heart disease. 


Many women think of heart disease as a man’s problem; however, each year, almost as many women as men die of heart disease.  Women may be less likely to survive heart attacks as men.  Why? One possible reason is women’s smaller hearts and blood vessels are more likely to be damaged.  Another reason is women may not recognize or respond to heart attack symptoms. 

Both genders usually experience the most common sign of a heart attack – pain and discomfort in the chest.  Women are more likely than men to have other signs of a heart attack.  Here are some of the symptoms they may have:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Extreme fatigue, sometimes for days or weeks beforehand
  • Pain in the back, neck, and jaw
  • Light-headedness or a cold sweat
  • Heartburn, coughing, heart flutters, or loss of appetite 

These symptoms can come on suddenly or develop over days or weeks.  The more signs you have, the likelier it is to be a heart attack.  Every minute counts: treatment within an hour offers the best chance for survival.  If you suspect a heart attack, call 911 immediately.  On a personal note: my sister-in-law is an E.R. nurse, and she told me that too many times men come to the E.R. complaining of indigestion, when in fact, they are having a heart attack.

Don’t ignore the symptoms.  Get to an emergency room in order to be sure of what is causing the pain.  My husband thought his problem was indigestion; however, when he finally decided to go to the E.R., he was immediately taken by ambulance to a larger hospital, where they discovered he needed four bypasses.  Thankfully, he is doing well now.  

Please take care of your ticker – it’s the only one you have! 

Sources: CDC; American Academy of Family Physicians, National Women’s Health Center, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and American Heart Association.