5 Key Indicators of Heart HealthYou can’t see your heart, and most of the time, you don’t feel it. Similarly, you can’t see or feel the indicators of heart health, yet they impact your overall well-being. That’s why it’s important to monitor your heart—and the best way to do so is by keeping track of the indicators of heart health.

What specific health indicators do I recommend monitoring? There are a lot of tests that have to do with the heart. Here are five key ones to help you make sure your heart is healthy.

Blood pressure

Blood pressure is the pressure blood places on your arteries as blood flows through them. When your levels are within healthy range, there is just the right amount of pressure being placed on the arteries, and blood can flow easily through the arteries to nourish the body.

How to test: You can test your levels at a pharmacy, with an at-home kit, or at your health care provider’s office.

Recommended range: The American Heart Association recommends levels less than 120/80.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is vital to the human body and is an essential component of the cell membrane and in producing bile acids and vitamin D3. Healthy cholesterol levels help keep the blood vessels open, allowing blood to flow effectively from the heart and deliver nutrients to the body. (For more on cholesterol, see, “Infographic: What Is Cholesterol?”)

How to test: Your health care provider can do a routine blood test.

Recommended range: Your total cholesterol number is a combination of “good” (HDL) cholesterol and “bad” (LDL) cholesterol; that total should be less than 200. The Mayo Clinic recommends that your total HDL should be over 40 for a man and over 50 for a woman, and total LDL should be less than 130.

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) in your blood. When you eat, your body immediately converts whatever calories it doesn’t use into these fats. Between meals, your body releases triglycerides to provide energy. Keeping your triglyceride levels within normal range is important so that you don’t have extra fat circulating in the blood.

How to test: Your health care provider can do a routine blood test.

Recommended range: The Mayo Clinic recommends levels less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or less than 1.7 millimoles per liter (mmol/L).

Homocysteine

Homocysteine is an amino acid found in the blood. Maintaining healthy homocysteine levels may help keep the arteries flexible and support healthy blood clotting. Folate and other B vitamins, especially B-6 and B-12, may support homocysteine levels already within normal range.*

How to test: Your health care provider can do a routine blood test.

Recommended levels: Medical institutions vary on what is considered “normal range” for homocysteine levels. Your health care provider can help you understand what is normal for your age, gender and health status.

Oxidative stress

Oxidation occurs from free radical damage. Antioxidants help the body fight free radical damage to the cells, which supports total health, including the health of the cardiovascular system. Oxidative stress levels measure the balance between free radicals and antioxidant defenses, so low levels of oxidative stress are a good sign for the health of your heart.

How to test: Your health care provider can do a routine blood test.

Recommended levels: Medical institutions vary on what is considered “normal range” for oxidative stress levels. Your health care provider can help you understand what is normal for your age, gender and health status.

The only way to know your heart health status is to test your body and have a conversation with your doctor about what each of the tests reveal. The person who is most accountable for your health is you—and that’s why it’s so important to track your own health, because no one else will do it for you.

What health tests have you had done to measure the health of your heart?

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

[1] http://www.mayoclinic.org/vid-20078243
[2] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/triglycerides/art-20048186?pg=1
[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10693912