4 Weeks to a Stronger Heart

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Numbers You Need to Know

Blood pressure
This measures the force of blood against the walls of your arteries. The top number (systolic) is the pressure of blood flow when the heart beats; the bottom number (diastolic) is the pressure when your heart is relaxing. Too-high pressure makes the heart work harder and eventually weaken. A 40- to 69-year-old normal-weight woman with untreated hypertension doubles her risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke for every 20/10 mm Hg over normal her blood pressure reaches.

Aim for: 120/80 mm Hg or less

"A strong heart needs healthy blood vessels that have a smooth, Teflon-like lining," explains John P. Cooke, MD, PhD, associate director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute. "This lets blood move easily, not clot."

Aim for: Total cholesterol below 200 mg/dl; LDL cholesterol (can cause fatty plaque in the walls of the arteries) below 100 mg/dl; HDL cholesterol (removes excess LDL from the arteries and delivers it to the liver for disposal) above 50 mg/dl.

This blood fat fuels muscles but, in excess, is stored in the fat cells and in the liver.

Aim for: below 150 mg/dl

Blood sugar
An estimated 25 million women have prediabetes, a condition now taken as seriously as type 2 diabetes. Someone with the precondition has a 1.5-fold higher risk of getting heart disease than a healthy person; if you have type 2 diabetes, the risk is two to four times higher.

Aim for: fasting glucose level of up to 100 mg/dl

Continued on page 3:  Change the Way You Eat


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