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Know Your Numbers

Why should I know my numbers?

Your risk for heart disease and stroke can be assessed by knowing your numbers for body composition, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure and blood sugar and by understanding what they mean.

Body composition tests

Your body is made up of water, fat, protein, carbohydrates, and various vitamins and minerals. If you have too much fat -- especially in your waist area -- your risk for heart disease and stroke is higher.

Body mass index

Body mass index (BMI*) is a measure of a person's body fat based on height and weight. BMI screens for weight categories that may lead to health problems, but it does not diagnose body fatness or health of an individual.

BMI less than 18.5 Underweight
BMI 18.5 - 24.9 Healthy
BMI 25.0 - 29.9 Overweight
BMI 30.0 or more Obese

*BMI scale is for adults (18+).

Waist circumference

Waist circumference can be measured in a few simple steps:

  1. Stand and place a tape measure around your middle, just above your hipbones
  2. Make sure the tape measures is snug, but not compressing your skin;
  3. Breathe out and measure your waist.

 A high-risk waistline is defined as more than 35 inches (88 cm) for women, and more than 40 inches (102 cm) for men.


Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in all parts of your body.  It is coated with a layer of protein to make a “lipoprotein” that can travel through the blood.  There are two types of cholesterol:

LDL (low density lipoprotein) carries most of the cholesterol in the blood.  When there is too much in the blood, it can lead to a cholesterol buildup in the arteries.  This is why LDL cholesterol is called the “bad” cholesterol.

HDL (high density lipoprotein) helps remove cholesterol from the blood and helps prevent the fatty buildup.  HDL cholesterol is called the “good” cholesterol.

Desirable Cholesterol Numbers for Adults

Total Cholesterol Less than 200 mg/dL
LDL “bad” cholesterol Less than 100 mg/dL
HDL “good” cholesterol Greater than or equal to 60 mg/dL
Triglycerides Less than 150 mg/dL

NOTE: These categories apply to adults age 20 and above.


Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food as well as in the body.  They’re also present in blood plasma and, in association with cholesterol, form the plasma lipids.

Triglycerides in plasma are derived from fats eaten in foods or made in the body from other energy sources such as carbohydrates.  Calories ingested in a meal and not used immediately by tissues are converted to triglycerides and transported to fat cells to be stored.

Excess triglycerides in plasma are called hypertriglyceridemia.  It’s linked to the occurrence of coronary artery disease in some people.  Elevated triglycerides may be a consequence of other diseases, such as untreated diabetes mellitus.  As with cholesterol, increases in triglyceride levels can be detected by plasma measurements.  These measurements should be made after an overnight food and alcohol fast. 

Normal Less than 150 mg/dL
Borderline high 150 - 199 mg/dL
High 200 - 499 mg/dL
Very high 500mg/dL and above

Blood pressure

Blood pressure is the force of blood as it moves through the blood vessels.  If blood cannot flow easily through the vessels, the force increases.  If the force is too great, you have high blood pressure. 

The higher (systolic) number represents the pressure while the heart is beating.  The lower (diastolic) number represents the pressure when the heart is resting between beats.  The systolic pressure is always stated first and the diastolic pressure second.

Blood Pressure Category SYSTOLIC mm Hg (upper number) and/or DIASTOLIC mm Hg (lower number)






120 - 129



High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 1

130 - 139


80 – 89

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 2




Hypertensive Crisis (consult your doctor immediately)




Fasting Blood sugar

Diabetes is a chronic health condition in which the level of glucose in the blood -- called blood sugar -- is too high, which can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.  Normally, the body gets its energy from blood sugar, which comes from food.

This test measures your blood sugar after an overnight fast (not eating). A fasting blood sugar level of 99 mg/dL or lower is normal, 100 to 125 mg/dL indicates you have prediabetes, and 126 mg/dL or higher indicates you have diabetes.

  Old Monitor
(It does not check plasma glucose levels.)
New Monitor
(It checks plasma glucose levels.)
Before meals 80 – 120 mg/dL 90 – 130 mg/dL
At bedtime 100 – 140 mg/dL 110 – 150 mg/dL

Your blood sugar goals may be different from these ideal goals. Ask your health care provider what goals are best for you.

For a healthy heart, try to live by these numbers:

Blood pressure Less than 120/80
BMI Less than 25
Total cholesterol Less than 200 mg/dL
  LDL Less than 100 mg/dL
  HDL Above 40 mg/dL
Triglycerides Less than 150 mg/dL
Normal blood sugar 60 - 99 mg/dL
Waist circumference  
  Men Less than 40 inches
  Women Less than 35 inches