Know Your Numbers

Do you know your numbers? There are three important numbers you should know about your body that contribute to your heart health: blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

Knowing what your numbers are—and what they mean—is one of the first, crucial steps to taking control of your heart health.

These numbers help your doctor assess your risk of developing heart disease. They can help you assess your own risk, right the comfort of your home. Use the online Sentara Heart Health Profiler.

  • Blood Pressure

    The Terms

    Systolic, the upper number, is the higher of the two numbers. It measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.

    Diastolic, the bottom number, is the lower of the two numbers. This number measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats, when your heart muscle is resting and refilling with blood.

    How We Get the Reading

    To get your blood pressure reading, healthcare providers use a blood pressure cuff. Your healthcare provider will first tighten the cuff to restrict your blood flow, then slowly release it and check your pulse.

    Your healthcare provider is checking how your pulse beats as the cuff is released.

    What the Numbers Mean

    Ideally, you want to have a systolic number of less than 120, and a diastolic number of less than 80.

    If your systolic is higher than 180 or your diastolic is higher than 110, you need emergency care.

  • Cholesterol

    The Terms

    Total cholesterol: The measure of the total amount of cholesterol in your blood. It is made up of LDL and HDL.

    LDL, low-density lipoprotein, is commonly known as the "bad" cholesterol. It can lead to buildup and blockages in your artery.

    HDL, high-density lipoprotein, is commonly known as the "good" cholesterol. HDL cholesterol actually helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. 

    Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. High levels may raise your risk of coronary artery disease.

    How We Get the Reading

    Checking your blood cholesterol level involves nothing more complicated than a regular old blood test.

    The medical name for the test is a lipoprotein panel, and you usually need to fast for 8-12 hours before the test.

    What the Numbers Mean

    The lower the LDL the better. The higher the HDL the better.

    For patients with known coronary artery disease, the LDL should be less than 70. Work closely with your doctors to determine your individualized target.

  • Blood Sugar Testing

    The Terms

    Glucose, a type of sugar, is a source of energy for cells in your body. Eating carbohydrates raises your blood glucose level.

    Insulin is a hormone your body makes to help control blood glucose levels.

    How We Get the Reading

    Another blood test is used to determin your numbers. A fasting blood sugar test is often the first type of blood test to check for signs of prediabetes or diabetes. This means you need to fast for 8-12 hours before the blood test

    What the Numbers Mean

    Normal results are between 70-100 mg/dL.

    Numbers of 126 or higher mean you probably have diabetes. If your numbers are high, discuss the next steps with your doctor.

Do you know your heart's "real" age? Answer a few quick questions and learn important information about your heart health.

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