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Health Information Heart by the Numbers

Your Heart by the Numbers

Your children’s birthdays. Your anniversary. Your age. You probably know these numbers by heart.

How about your blood pressure? Your body mass index? Or your cholesterol and blood glucose levels? You ought to know these numbers for your heart.

According to Robert Creek, MD, a cardiologist at Rush University Medical Center, these are things you want to look at when assessing your risk for heart disease.


  • Blood pressure measures the force against your arteries as your heart pumps blood through them.
  • Cholesterol is a fatty substance that can clog your arteries and inhibit blood flow.
  • Body mass index, or BMI, is your body fat based on your height and weight and can indicate obesity.
  • Blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels that are high indicate diabetes.

The chart below is a general guide to these four measurements. If you don’t know what your numbers are, take the chart with you to your next doctor’s appointment.

What to check When to first check How often to check Why you might want to check earlier or more often Optimal numbers (may be different if you have diabetes or other conditions)
Cholesterol (fasting lipoprotein profile) Age 20 Every five years

• Diabetes

• High blood

• Smoking

• A family history
  of heart disease

• HDL*: 40 mg/dL or higher

• LDL**: Less than 100 mg/dL

• Total: Less than 200 mg/dL

Blood pressure Age 18 At least every two years and every time you see your doctor

• Prehypertension

• Other risk 
  factors for heart

Less than 120/80 mm Hg
Body mass index Adolescence
(age 12 to 18)
Every time you see your doctor

• Physical 

• Unhealthy diet

• Family history
  of obesity

18.5 to 24.9
Blood glucose
(fasting plasma glucose test)
Age 45 Every five years

• Being 

• High cholesterol

• High blood

• A family history
  of diabetes

99 mg/dL or less

Your doctor can help you determine which tests are appropriate for you at your current stage of life, including screenings for other diseases, such as cancer. If you have risk factors that make you more likely to have heart disease, you might need to have your numbers checked earlier or more often. Keep in mind that aging itself is a factor that increases your risk for abnormal numbers and heart disease.

* HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol should be as high as possible. This good cholesterol is a type of fat in the blood that helps remove bad cholesterol, preventing fatty buildup and plaque formation.

** LDL (low-density lipoprotein) levels should be low. LDL, or bad, cholesterol can contribute to the formation of plaque buildup in the arteries.


Heart and Cardiovascular Care at
Rush University Medical Center

At Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, researchers and nurse specialists work in teams to address the full scope of heart problems, whether common or complex.

Working in state-of-the art facilities, using some of the world’s most sophisticated technology, these experts are on the leading edge of diagnosis, treatment and discovery. From preventive measures to heart transplantation, they are helping to revolutionize heart care.

For more information about cardiovascular services at Rush visit our Heart & Vascular Programs home page.

Looking for Other Health Information?

Visit Discover Rush’s Web Resource page to find articles on health topics and recent health news from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. You will also find many helpful links to other areas of our site.

Looking for a Doctor?

Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, is a leader in caring for people of all ages, from newborns through older adults.

Just phone (888) 352-RUSH or (888) 352-7874 for help finding the Rush doctor who’s right for you.


Clinical Trials

Looking for Information About Clinical Trials at Rush for Heart Conditions?

• Visit the Cardiovascular Trials home page.

Looking for Information About Clinical Trials at Rush for Other Disorders?

• Visit the Clinical Trials home page.


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Discover Rush, 2008 - Spring
Heart by the Numbers

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