Heart and Vascular

Know your numbers for heart health: a guide for people 49 and under

Young mom and daughter touching noses and smiling.


Find out what key indicators of health mean so you have energy today and a future of wellness.


By Sunny Intwala, MD, Cardiology, The Heart Center, part of Nuvance Health 


We get it! You’ve got a lot going on, whether you’re balancing work and family life, traveling or taking up a new hobby or workout routine. Feeling energized and well for all you do starts with knowing your numbers because it’s never too early to start taking proactive steps toward a healthy heart.


These numbers, including blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index (BMI) and blood sugars, are key indicators of your health today and your future self. Regular screenings and knowing what your numbers mean are great steps toward reducing your chances of getting heart disease and diabetes. 


Let’s explore these numbers and use them as a guide when speaking with your healthcare provider about your own personal risks and cardiovascular health. Please note these are guidelines, and targets may vary from person to person. It is important to consult with your doctor on what is best for you. 

Maintain good blood pressure


One of the most crucial numbers to know for heart health is your blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps it around the body. A healthy blood pressure reading is typically around 120/80 mm Hg. The first number (systolic) represents the pressure when the heart beats, and the second number (diastolic) represents the pressure when the heart is at rest.


People under 50 should aim to keep their blood pressure within the normal range to reduce the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular issues. Regular monitoring of blood pressure, either at home or during routine checkups, is essential to identify and address any abnormalities promptly.


Check your cholesterol levels


Cholesterol is a fatty substance in the blood that is essential for building cells but can become problematic when levels are too high. There are two main types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL cholesterol is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol because high levels can lead to plaque buildup in arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease. On the other hand, HDL cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol as it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream.


For people under 50, it’s important to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association recommends total cholesterol levels should be below 200 mg/dL, with LDL cholesterol below 100 mg/dL and HDL cholesterol above 40 mg/dL. Regular screenings can help individuals stay informed about their cholesterol levels and take preventive measures if necessary.


Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) 


Maintaining a healthy weight is vital for heart health, and the Body Mass Index (BMI) is a useful tool to assess whether your weight is within a healthy range. You can calculate your BMI by dividing your weight in kilograms or pounds by the square of your height in meters or feet. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is generally considered healthy. But, check with your doctor to determine what BMI is healthy for you.



Being overweight or obese can contribute to various cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Eat a balanced diet and incorporate regular physical activity into your lifestyle to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Speak with your doctor if you need help managing a healthy weight.


Balance blood sugar levels 


Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is crucial for heart health, especially considering the close relationship between diabetes and cardiovascular disease. You should monitor your blood sugar levels at least annually at your primary care checkups, especially if you have a family history of diabetes or other risk factors.


Learn more about diabetes and your heart.


Fasting blood sugar levels should ideally be below 100 mg/dL. Elevated blood sugar levels can contribute to inflammation and damage to the blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart disease. Lifestyle choices such as a well-balanced diet, regular exercise and stress management play key roles in regulating blood sugar levels and promoting overall heart health.

The bottom line: Knowing your numbers for heart health is a proactive and empowering approach to maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. By monitoring and managing key indicators such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, BMI and blood sugar levels, you can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and contribute to a long and healthy life. Regular checkups with healthcare professionals, adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle and staying informed about personal health metrics are essential components of a comprehensive strategy for heart health at a younger age.