I believe one of the ways to keep ourselves and our family healthy and fit is to keep tabs on two key numbers, i.e. the blood pressure and the cholesterol levels as they are important for heart health. Don’t be panicked, it is not that difficult to do that although it seems to be so!
Know our Blood Pressure Number!
Blood pressure is the measurement of the force against the artery walls when our heart is pumping and circulating blood throughout our body. As we age, our blood vessels become stiffer, a reason why older people tend to have higher blood pressure.
What is the ideal or normal blood pressure for us? Well, it should be ≤ 120/80 mmHg. The top number showed the pressure in our arteries when the heart is contracting while the bottom number showed the pressure when the heart is resting between beats.
“Hypertension” is the term that described when our blood pressure gets too high (i.e. ≥ 140/90 mmHg) that becomes a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and increases our risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease, and even early death.
- Normal: ≤ 120/80 mmHg
- High blood pressure: ≥ 140/90 mmHg
- Pre-hypertension: 120/80 -139/89 mmHg
Understand our Cholesterol Number!
Cholesterol and triglycerides are important lipids (fats) for they are the building blocks for body cell structure and are used in producing hormones and energy. Our blood cholesterol can be influenced by diet and on how well our liver functions to produce cholesterol. On the same note, high cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis — this is something to do with hardening of the arteries.
- Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL in its short form, is the bad cholesterol, hence, the lower the better) – Ideal: < 3.3 mmol/L
- High-density Lipoprotein (HDL in short, is the good cholesterol, hence, the higher the better) – Ideal: ≥ 0.9 mmol/L
- Triglycerides – Ideal: < 2.3 mmol/L
- Total cholesterol – Ideal: < 5.2 mmol/L
Although total cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) can be measured fairly accurately without fasting; but for low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglyceride level, we need to fast for 9-12 hours.
To measure blood pressure at home, we can use an automated machine which has an inflatable cuff that can fit snugly on our arm or wrist. Besides following the user’s manual instructions, we need to take the average of three readings each time, especially if our number is in the pre-hypertension range.
To measure blood cholesterol levels at home, we only need a small drop of blood on the test strip of a cholesterol meter. Most home cholesterol tests only give us the total cholesterol reading. To gauge our cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, we will need to know our HDL, LDL and triglyceride levels.
It is suggested to always record our blood pressure and cholesterol numbers and watch out for trends based on our lifestyle changes. In fact, the doctor will want to see it when we go for our medical appointment.
By knowing our blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, I believe our heart will love us for making this healthy choice!
Did you know that regular consumption of fatty fish can help keep our blood cholesterol in good balance, especially the level of HDL, the good cholesterol? If so, consider give our heart a gift of health and make fish a part of our daily diet!
Tan Kok Hui
Nutrition Made Simple, Life Made Rich