Hitting 40? What are the numbers you need to track to stay healthy and on top of things?
Anyone in their mid-30s or younger is probably not reading this post. It’s only when the big FOUR-OH milestone is approaching that you find yourself reading articles and fretting that you’re reaching a turning point in life. Is it the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end? At the very least 40 heralds some noticable physical changes; a few more gray hairs, the need for reading glasses and the start of wrinkles around the eyes.
The mirror can tell you how many gray hairs have crept onto your cranium. But those are the numbers you should track to stay looking and feeling young. Dye the doo if you wish, but don’t ignore the real health indicators – those affecting your heart.
Top 6 Health Numbers To Know After 40
The following six measurements are the main numbers to watch as you reach your big Four Zero.
1) Blood Pressure
This number should top your priority list. It is the best indicator of how well your heart is functioning.
What exactly is blood pressure?
Your arteries carry blood throughout your body. The pressure in your arteries as the blood flows through them is your blood pressure. It is measured and shown in two numbers.
The first number is the amount of pressure present when your heart beats, pushing the blood through the arteries. This is your systolic blood pressure.
The second number measures the pressure when your heart relaxes between beats. This is your diastolic blood pressure.
Both are measured in mmHg (millimeters of mercury.) For example, 120/80mmHg. This reading is commonly stated as “120 over 80.”
This is one area where we can “beat the clock” a bit. If you can maintain a blood pressure of 115/75, this will keep your body feeling and performing eight years younger than the average person.
What should your blood pressure number be?
A healthy blood pressure reading is below 140/85mmHg. Ideally, it will be 115 over 75. Notify your physician if your top number ever exceeds 140, or your bottom number reaches 90.
The chart below explains the categories.
Normal – Congrats, you’re as healthy as a horse, keep doing what you’re doing!
Prehypertension and Hypertension Stage 1 – These stages are a warning sign. It means your BP is not that good and may increase to a dangerous level.
Hypertension Stage 2 – You’re already in a major risk group, unfortunately. Your BP is not in good shape and you can easily get dragged into a hypertensive crisis. The good news is, you can start taking drugs and do tiny changes to recover from this stage.
Hypertensive Crisis – It means your BP is really high. If this is your regular average BP and your doctor knows about it, find out what you can do to lower it! If you just took a reading and it’s much higher than usual, reach out to medical assistance now.
2) Resting Heart Rate
When you are at rest, your heart should be too. A rapid heart beat while at rest is an indicator your heart is working harder than it should. This is closely tied with high blood pressure and other possible health problems.
A healthy resting heart rate is usually around 60 beats per minute. It should be in this range when you first get out of bed.
The good, the bad, and the ugly. Cholesterol levels are measuring different types of fats in the blood. Some you want, some you don’t. Cholesterol itself is actually a nutrient, but it’s also a type of fat. This makes cholesterol both necessary and deadly. Too much of the wrong kind, and you are at risk of a heart attack.
LDL – This is the bad stuff. It’s basically plaque in your arteries. As it builds up, it blocks blood flow and causes heart attacks and strokes.
HDL – This is the good stuff. HDL cholesterol helps clean up the LDL. It clears the bad stuff out of your arteries.
Triglycerides – This is the fat in your blood. It’s what is left over and stored after eating to give your body energy. They are the main type of fat in the body.
Combined, these three numbers create your lipid profile score. Individual numbers should be examined to determine your current health risks.
What’s Your Desired Cholesterol Number?
Your optimal number will vary depending on gender and your overall risk for heart disease.
LDL – Ideally, this number will be 100 or lower. However, if you are at high risk for heart disease, 70 is your desired level. If you have no risk factors, 100-129 is considered healthy. LDL levels greater than 190 are always considered very high.
HDL – Unlike LDL, which usually needs to be lowered, the concern for this number is that it doesn’t get too low. Optimal levels are 60 mg/dL and above. Unhealthy HDL levels are below 40 mg/dL for men and below 50mg/dL for women.
Triglycerides – Triglycerides levels of less than 150 mg/dL are considered healthy. Ideal is 100 mg/dL or less. Levels over 200 mg/dL are considered high.
4) Blood Sugar
No, this is not a measurement of how sweet you are. It measures the amount of glucose (a type of sugar) in your blood. This glucose is found in carbohydrates, and serves as the main source of energy for your body.
Blood sugar levels normally fluctuate. They will increase after you eat. The danger occurs when glucose levels get too high, and remain at this elevated level over an extended period of time. This can cause damage to your blood vessels, kidneys, eyes, and nerves.
Blood sugar tests are performed to detect diabetes and pre-diabetes, and to monitor diabetes. Another test, the A1C, provides an index of average blood glucose for the previous three to four months so it can be more representative than a spot test.
What is your optimal blood sugar level?
Healthy readings from a Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS) test are less than 100 milligrams/deciliter, but not lower than 40 mg/dL. A1C should be less than 7.0%.
5) C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
A measurement of the level of this protein in your body indicates the amount of inflammation present. Inflammation has been shown to be associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Like hypertension, high levels of CRP can be a silent killer. It can produce no external symptoms to warn you of its presence, but can eventually lead to serious health problems. Keeping an eye on this protein level can help identify potential risks. A simple blood draw and lab work are completed to perform this test.
What’s your desired CRP Number ?
Normal CRP levels are less than 1.0mg/dL
CRP levels lower than 1.0 mg/L – low risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
CRP levels between 1.0 and 3.0 mg/ – average risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
CRP levels higher than 3.0 mg/L – high risk of developing cardiovascular disease (about 25% of Americans fall into this category).
6) Waist Size
How does your pants size affect your heart?
Your waist size is a major indicator of your current health. This number can even be a more accurate indicator of heart health than your weight or BMI (body mass index, which measures your weight in relation to your height.)
It’s also an easy one to monitor. You don’t need a doctor. You don’t have to go to a lab. You don’t have to endure any needles. All you need is a measuring tape.
Use your size at your belly button for this measurement. For women, a healthy number is less than 36 inches. For men, it’s less than 40 inches. A good rule of thumb: The number should be less than half your height.
Numbers greater than these increase your risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. In fact, research has shown that your risk for heart disease increases 15% with a four-inch increase in waist size.
Know Your Personal Health Numbers – Summary
|Blood Pressure||< 140/85 115/75 is ideal|
|Resting Heart Rate||Around 60 beats per minute|
|Cholesterol||LDL <100, HDL >60, Triglycerides <100|
|Blood Sugar||<100, no lower than 40|
|Waist Size||Women: <36 inches Men: <40 inches|
How To Keep Your Numbers On Track
While we can’t turn back the clock, or stop it from racing forward, we can be proactive in our aging process. With proper steps you can monitor, track, and make changes to each of these numbers.
Monitoring empowers you, keeps you in touch with your doctor, alerts you to early warning signs of any health problems and keeps you moving in the right direction. Tracking lets you know what you need to change and how your changes are affecting your health numbers. Making simple changes to your lifestyle, diet or medications can drastically affect these numbers and decrease health risks.
When And How To Check Your Personal Health Numbers
If you’ve hit age 40, you should be checking these personal health numbers regularly. How often you should check will depend on your goals, your current health and your risks in and across categories.
Blood Pressure – Most people check their blood pressure at their doctor’s office once a year and let it go at that. But if you’ve hit 40, you’ll want to get a home blood pressure monitor and check more frequently, particularly if any of the following apply to you:
- You have a family history of heart disease
- You have been diagnosed with prehypertension or hypertension
- You have other cardiovascular risk conditions (high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist, abnormal cholesterol levels, high triglycerides)
- You want to track and quantify how stress, diet and exercise impact your heart health
Today’s technology allows you to easily monitor BP and track trends over time. A combination of smart watch and health apps like Hello Heart (iOS, Android) keeps constant tabs on your blood pressure. Your data is recorded, analyzed and visualized for easy understanding by you and your physician.
Resting Heart Rate – This one is fairly simple. Before you tackle your day, take your resting heart rate. When you first wake up, take your pulse on your wrist or neck. If you are using a blood pressure monitoring device, this will probably be done for you by the device. You can then record and track your heart rate over time directly in Hello Heart.
Cholesterol – According to the American Heart Association, if your numbers are good and your heart disease risk is low, cholesterol should be checked every four to six years. If your numbers are not good or you have any other heart health risk factors, your physician can help you determine how often your cholesterol should be reviewed on a more regular basis. A simple blood draw is all you need to endure to obtain these numbers. Then connect to your clinic online using Hello Heart and those numbers will automatically get transferred to the app along with clear explanations of what each number means.
Blood Sugar – Blood sugar is typically measured by a blood test, after fasting for several hours. This should be done each year to monitor your overall health and detect early signs of diabetes. If you have already connected your clinic to Hello Heart, these new lab results will automatically import along with explanations of what each number means and what you can do about it.
Home tests are available and used by those with diabetes for careful daily monitoring of blood sugar levels. These include blood tests from finger pricks, urine tests, and, most recently, sensor-based blood sugar readings that require no blood draws.
C-Reactive Protein/Inflammation Number – Your CRP level is determined by a blood test. Yearly review of this number is healthy practice. It will help your doctor detect any problems associated with inflammation.
Waist Size – Take out your tape measure several times each year to monitor this number. If you notice you are spreading the tape farther each time, you will need to make some lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Next Steps For Healthy Living Over 40
When you turn forty, one option is to bottle your 40-phobia away and pretend like nothing has changed (If you’re a guy, you might buy a Porsche). An arguably more effective plan is to take stock in your future and take charge of your heart health. Consistent and frequent monitoring of these 6 health numbers will keep you on track for heart healthy living and plan for the long-run. Get a home blood pressure monitor. Download the free Hello Heart app (iOS, Android). Connect your clinic. Start tracking so you keep on top of your best game.