Heart with stethoscope 1280 x 1149

Women can recite many numbers by heart, such as credit card numbers, addresses, telephone numbers, and pin numbers. But most women don’t know the critical numbers that can save their lives and help them to better understand their risk for cardiovascular diseases. Heart disease is the number 1 killer of women, taking more lives than all forms of cancer combined. So, it is imperative that women learn the warning signs and symptoms, see a doctor regularly, and learn their family history.


Know Your Numbers

According to the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement, there are four critical numbers for heart health that all women should know:

  • Blood Pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Blood Sugar
  • Body Mass Index (BMI).

These numbers can help women take control of their heart health, allowing them to work with their healthcare provider to determine their risk of developing cardiovascular disease by atherosclerosis. This includes conditions such as angina (chest pain), heart attack, stroke (caused by blood clots), and peripheral artery disease (PAD).

Some numbers are more apparent than others in daily life. For example:

  • High cholesterol has no symptoms, so it is critical to talk to your doctor about your cholesterol numbers (you should ask about your LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterol and the other numbers in your lipid blood test instead of just learning your total cholesterol number). High levels of bad cholesterol contribute to the development of plaque that clogs arteries and can lead to heart disease and stroke. Ask your doctor how your cholesterol numbers contribute to your overall risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • High blood pressure is also a silent killer that does not carry symptoms but is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. When your blood pressure stays within healthy ranges (more or less 120/80), you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys, which keeps you healthier longer. You can control blood pressure by adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a diet low in salt, saturated fats, cholesterol, and alcohol and by exercising multiple times per week. Some people may have to take blood pressure medications if healthy lifestyle alone does not control elevated blood pressure.


Blood sugar and BMI

Keeping your blood sugar levels and BMI within a healthy range is related to maintaining a healthy weight. Your weight, in turn, is influenced by what you eat, how much you eat, and how much you stay physically active.

  • Blood sugar levels fluctuate throughout the day, but in general, a normal fasting (no food for eight hours) blood sugar is under 100 mg/dl. Blood sugars measured two hours after meals should be less than 140 mg/dl. When blood sugar levels exceed these levels, it may indicate that you have or are on your way to having diabetes. You should talk to your doctor about what you can do if you learn that your blood sugar levels are higher than normal.
  • A major source of excess calories in the American diet comes from sugar. Sugar is everywhere, including regular soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, and milk products. I recommend that women limit sugar intake to no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day.
  • BMI is a numerical value of your weight in relation to your height. It is an indicator of healthy or unhealthy weight for adult women, regardless of body frame size. A BMI of less than 25 kg/m² indicates a healthy weight and a BMI between 25 kg/m² and a BMI of 29.9 kg/m² is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 kg/m² or higher indicates obesity. Living an active lifestyle is an effective way to lower your BMI, and is one of the most rewarding gifts you can give yourself and those you love.


The bottom line

By knowing your numbers, you can take control of your heart health and treat risk factors with lifestyle changes and your healthcare provider’s help. Cardiovascular diseases kill 1 in 3 women each year—about one woman every 80 seconds. Fortunately, 80% of these diseases may be preventable. So, lead by example and make the time to “Know Your Numbers.” It’s knowledge that could save your life.

For more information about cardiovascular diseases and great tools to help you determine your risk and numbers, such as a risk factors quiz and a BMI calculator, visit GoRedForWomen.org.

Suzanne Steinbaum, MD
Suzanne Steinbaum MD, Director, Women’s Cardiovascular Prevention, Health and Wellness, Mt. Sinai Hospital; New York, NY, USA Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum has devoted her career to the treatment of heart disease through early detection, education, and prevention. She is an attending cardiologist and the Director of Women’s Heart Health of Northwell Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and has been awarded a New York Times Super Doctor, a Castle and Connolly Top Doctor for Cardiovascular Disease and New York Magazine’s prestigious Best Doctors in the New York edition. A Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, she also serves as a national spokesperson for the Go Red for Women campaign and is on the New York City Board of the American Heart Association.


  1. I wrote a blog on my website in October with the same warning before the holiday season, a woman, French filmmaker, did a video about the cardiovascular attack signs for women. I wrote a post, Go Red eat Green eat Avocado, which is an excellent fruit to prevent cardiovascular diseases, for women as for men. I move to the US to develop the mass production for an ECMO pump because the artificial hearts were designed for overweight men (200lb +), children and women were too “small” to get an assistance. Early in this century, I had an argument with a leading Cardiac surgeon in transplant when I asked him about the size of the cardiac assistance: ” … women do not need an artificial heart. “Why the Wall Street Journal is mentioning the lack of heart care for women? “because it is a left feminist journal.” I was speechless. I started to work on weight loss programs for women to prevent cardiovascular diseases before the medical community started to take care. I learned in France to prevent high blood pressure, diabetes 2, high level of blood cholesterol, obesity by nutrition. Eating organic with 60% of plant food prevent cardiovascular diseases for women and men, with a bonus in brain function and a very low risk of cancers.


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