Three important numbers for American Heart Month

American Heart Month has made a dynamic impact on public health awareness for more than 50 years. It has helped drop annual heart disease deaths by 1 million people annually each February since the 1960s. However, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States in 2016, with 610,000 deaths each year.

Reducing your risk of heart disease is largely tied to diet and lifestyle choices. And, these gains and losses can be illuminated by a variety of diagnostic tests like blood work, blood pressure readings and much more. You can use a Flexible Spending Account for any medical services related to that type of diagnostic care, as well. Search our comprehensive FSA Eligibility List to learn about covered medical services.

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This American Heart Month, take stock of your health by investigating the following crucial health numbers with your doctor that can speak volumes about your risk of heart disease.

HDL/LDL Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol is a waxy-like substance is created in the liver and ingested in animal products like meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Cholesterol contributes to the body's ability to build new cells, insulate nerves and produce hormones. However, if you eat a diet high in saturated and trans fats, the liver will begin to produce more cholesterol than is needed, which can raise your risk for heart disease.

Elevated levels of cholesterol can cause the substance to begin building up in the walls of the arteries in a process called atherosclerosis, which is a form of heart disease. However, your heart disease risk is closely tied to HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels.

LDL cholesterol is the "bad" cholesterol that contributes to plaque buildup in arteries that is derived from food sources, while HDL cholesterol removes LDL cholesterol from the arteries and carries it back to the liver to be broken down and passed. HDL cholesterol produced naturally in the body as a result of exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, and lower levels are known to protect against heart attack and stroke.

Healthy HDL Level for Adults: Less than 40 mg/dL

Healthy LDL Level for Adults: Less than 100 mg/dL

Healthy Total Cholesterol Level for Adults: Less than 200 mg/dL

Triglycerides

LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, along with one-fifth of your triglyceride count, make up your body's total cholesterol level. Triglycerides are another important measure of your heart health, as this type of fat (lipid) is created naturally when the body converts calories it doesn't need into triglycerides.

This substance is then stored in fat cells in the body, and is released between meals as an energy source. In most cases, if you eat more calories than you burn, especially carbohydrates and foods high in saturated and trans fats, triglyceride levels will be much higher and will contribute to your heart disease risk.

Healthy Levels for Adults: Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)

Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is among the most common health issues facing U.S. adults. High blood pressure can lead to major health issues like heart attacks, stroke or aneurysms, as the long-term force of the blood against arterial walls is an underlying sign of narrowing arteries caused by blockages.

Because of its contribution to the formation of heart disease, decreasing your blood pressure numbers with a healthy diet with less salt, quitting smoking and exercising regularly can greatly improve your state of health.

Healthy Levels for Adults: Systolic/Diastolic in mm/Hg - Below 120/80 mm/Hg

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