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Five health numbers you need to know

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but it doesn’t mean you should forgo your annual visits. Regular appointments with your doc can help you keep track of your health indexes, such as blood pressure, weight, and blood sugar, and catch health issues in their earliest stages. Each health index has a number that indicates whether or not you have reason to be concerned. Here are five of the most important health numbers you should know and why they matter.

Woman Taking PulseBlood pressure — 120/80 mmHg

What it is: A measure of heart health.Why it matters: Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood as it gets pushed along the walls of your arteries. The number represents the pressure when the heart is pushing blood (systolic pressure) and when it relaxes between beats (diastolic pressure). The higher the number, the more pressure, and the harder your heart has to work to get blood through your body, making you more susceptible to developing hypertension or having a heart attack.(10 ways to reduce your heart attack risk)

Cholesterol — 100 mg/dl for LDL and 40 mg/dl for HDL

What it is: The measure of bad (LDL) to good cholesterol (HDL) in your body.Why it matters: Cholesterol is the measure (measured in milligrams (mg) / deciliter (dl)) of fat in your blood. LDL (or low-density lipoprotein) is the bad kind of cholesterol because it promotes plaque buildup in your arteries. HDL (or high-density lipoprotein) is the good kind of cholesterol because it helps keep LDL out of your arteries. When you have too much LDL in your system, you run the risk of having a massive heart attack or stroke.(Learn how almonds can lower your cholesterol level.)

Resting heart rate — 60 beats per minute (bpm)

What it is: The number of times your heart beats in a minute while you are at rest (60 bpm and under is considered healthy).Why it matters: The higher your resting pulse rate, the harder your body has to work to pump blood. A high resting heart rate also means your body will have to work harder to complete simple every day tasks (everything from eating breakfast to opening a jar of pickles). The result? Injury, fatigue and cardiovascular strain — all of which can be prevented with daily exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.(New exercises guidelines for heart health)

Waist size — 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men

What it is: The circumference of your waist.Why it matters: Your waist size predicts your risk for dozens of conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, better than any other measurement (including your weight and body mass index (BMI)). Even by losing one-inch from your waistline you’ll improve your heart’s health. What’s more, it’s easy to measure: Simply get a non-elastic tape measure and wrap it around your waist at belly button level. Anything over 35 inches for a woman and 40 inches for a man is considered dangerous.(Do you have an apple or pear body?)

Fasting blood sugar level — 80 mg/dl to 100 mg/dl

What it is: A test that measures the amount of glucose in your blood after sleeping (or eight hours of fasting).Why it matters: A blood sugar or blood glucose test is a good indicator of how well your body processes sugar or glucose and whether or not you are at risk for diabetes. Any measurement over 100 mg/dl suggests that you have pre-diabetes, a condition when your blood sugar level is higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with the diabetes. The good news? Research shows that being aware of pre-diabetes can help you take steps to delay its progression. A blood sugar level of 126 mg/dl or higher is consistent with either Type 1 or 2 diabetes and requires treatment immediately.(Diet and exercise can reverse Type 2 diabetes)

More ways to monitor your health

Health issues for women over 40
Tools to measure your risk of breast cancer
Medical tests you need

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