Ask an expert: Know your numbers

Q: “What does it mean to ‘know your numbers’ and why is it important?”

Answered by Lori Tam, M.D., cardiologist, medical director of women’s heart wellness, Providence Heart Institute

Knowing your numbers includes knowing what your blood pressure is, your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and your weight. It’s important for you to know your numbers because these numbers are key indicators of your risk for serious cardiovascular health issues. If you can keep your numbers in a healthy range, you can dramatically decrease your risk of heart attack, stroke and other health conditions.

If your numbers are not within the ideal range, you should certainly reach out to your health care provider and create a plan to help you reach your desired goals. There are important measures you can take, which include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising
  • Reducing the salt in your diet
  • Managing stress
  • Reducing alcohol use
  • Not smoking

High blood pressure is known as a silent killer because there are often no symptoms until something dramatic occurs, such as heart attack, stroke or death. People should pay close attention to their blood pressure numbers and start making changes earlier to make sure their numbers stay in a healthy range.

The American Heart Association guidelines recommend a blood pressure goal of 120 over 80 for the majority of people. We know that if you achieve better blood pressure control, your cardiovascular health will improve and you’ll decrease your risk of stroke and heart attack.

When you know your numbers and start making changes to get them in a healthy range, you take control and can actually improve your outcomes. As a cardiologist, it’s a very rewarding experience to help patients improve their numbers by making lifestyle changes, and help them live a healthier and hopefully longer and more rewarding life.