Your Heart Matters: 5 Critical Factors Linked to Heart Health - Episode 9

Did you know? Heart disease is the nation's leading cause of death. Julie Corliss, with Harvard Health offers 5 five important numbers that can give you a good picture of overall health, and help lower your chance of a heart attack or stroke:

  • Blood pressure: Below 120/80 mm Hg. High blood pressure can damage blood vessels, promote plaque buildup, enlarge the heart, and increase the risk of strokes. To manage blood pressure, a diet rich in potassium and low in sodium, along with limiting alcohol consumption, is recommended.
  • LDL cholesterol:  Below 70 mg/dL. Excessive LDL particles can lead to the formation of plaque in artery walls, contributing to atherosclerosis. Limiting saturated fats and replacing them with unsaturated fats can be helpful for maintaining healthy LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dL. Elevated triglyceride levels are associated with a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Controlling unhealthy fat and sugar intake, while incorporating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, is advised.
  • Blood sugar: A fasting level below 100 mg/dL. High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels, promote atherosclerosis, and increase the likelihood of clots. Avoiding sugary foods and beverages and opting for whole, unprocessed grains instead of refined grains can help with managing blood sugar levels.
  • Waist circumference: Whichever number is lower: Less than half your height in inches OR Women: Less than 35 inches, Men: Less than 40 inches. Abdominal or visceral obesity, indicated by a larger waist circumference, releases substances that trigger inflammation and contribute to atherosclerosis. Reducing calorie intake, particularly from processed foods high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats, is recommended.

While the ideal values are good goals for most people, your doctor may recommend different targets based on your age or other health conditions.

In addition to addressing these 5 metrics, Corliss recommends adopting healthy lifestyle habits including:  maintaining a healthy weight, consuming a plant-based diet, engaging in regular exercise, getting sufficient sleep, and managing stress levels. By doing so, we can enhance all five measures of heart health and help reduce the risk of heart disease.



Corliss, J. (2023). 5 numbers linked to ideal heart health. Retrieved from