During your health care visit, your provider will likely do a few tests to monitor how healthy your heart and body may be, and check if anything is underlying. Typically, they will check your weight and height, your blood pressure, your heart rate, and possibly a urine sample.
How to understand your numbers (blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate, test results), what they mean, how the impact your overall health, factors that contribute to those results, and more.
The only way to know if you have high blood pressure (HBP, or hypertension) is to have your blood pressure tested. Understanding your results is key to controlling high blood pressure. Learn more from the American Heart Association.
Your blood pressure reading will have two numbers reported:
- Systolic blood pressure (the first or top number) – how much pressure your blood is pushing against your heart artery walls when the heart beats.
- Diastolic blood pressure (the second or bottom number) – how much pressure your blood is pushing against your heart artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.
High cholesterol, also known as hypercholesterolemia, is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Having high cholesterol levels when you are younger can lead to heart problems later on.
What can be scary: high cholesterol doesn’t have any symptoms. It usually isn’t on someone’s radar until it is too late. High cholesterol CAN run in families as well, so it is important to learn about your family health history, and if anyone has had trouble managing cholesterol or blood pressure. There is typically treatments to help, but healthy lifestyle and diet changes are the first changes that can help.
- Major risk factor for heart disease and stroke
- When you know your numbers
- 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases may be prevented. Learn more.
Typical ranges for adults: (source) – Total cholesterol levels:
- Less than 200 mg/dL – Desirable
- 200-239 mg/dL – Borderline high
- 240+ mg/dL – High
LDL cholesterol levels:
- Less than 100 mg/dL – Desirable
- 100-129 mg/dL – Acceptable for people with no health issues but concerning for those with heart disease or heart disease risk factors
- 130-159 mg/dL – Borderline high
- 160-189 mg/dL – High
- 190+ mg/dL – Very high
HDL cholesterol levels:
- Less than 40 mg/dL – Major risk factor for heart disease
- 41-59 mg/dL – Borderline low
- 60+ mg/dL – optimal
Lab Test Results: What to Expect: Whether you get blood drawn, urine or culture sample, your provider will send your sample to get tested in a lab. Some things can be tested immediately, in the office, and some tests need to be sent out and shared back later.
Possible lab results:
- Positive: the lab found whatever your doctor was testing for. For example, if you were tested for strep throat and it came back positive, that means you have strep throat.
- Negative: The lab didn’t find whatever your doctor was testing for.
- Inconclusive: Sometimes test results don’t say one way or the other. You may need to take additional tests or continue to monitor your symptoms.
Deciphering Your Lab Report: A lot of lab test results don’t give you clear answers, they’re just numbers. Sometimes they provide a “reference range” or “reference value” to see how your results compare to the typical healthy range. If they do not provide this, you may want to look up healthy ranges on your own. Here’s a helpful website to start: https://labtestsonline.org/patient-resources
Note: not all tests are perfect – sometimes they can miss things, or what the test is looking for doesn’t account for other ways that an issue can show up. Just because your results come back negative doesn’t mean your crazy or it’s “all in your head” – it means it’s time to investigate further into what may be causing your symptoms. Learn more.
Always keep a copy of your results! They may be helpful in terms of determining what a “typical range” is for you.
Feel free to reach out to your doctor if you’d like them to explain anything about your test results! Some questions you may want to ask are:
- Why did I need this test?
- What exactly does this test result mean?
- How accurate is this test?
- When will I need to do this test again?
- Based on my results, do I need treatment or other tests?
Glucose is the main sugar found in your blood. It comes from food and drinks that your body will use for energy. Your blood carries this sugar to all of your body’s cells to use for energy.
Keeping your blood sugar in your target range is important to help prevent long-term health problems, such as heart disease. Staying in your target range can also help improve your energy and mood. Learn more about how to read your blood sugar here.
Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar levels are too high. Your provider may check your blood sugar levels with a finger prick to determine if your blood sugar is too high or too low (both have different problems!).
Blood sugar tests:
- Below 5.7% – Normal
- 5.7-6.4% – prediabetes
- 6.5% or higher – Diabetes
But blood sugar levels vary throughout the day because of a lot of different factors, including:
- Type of food consumed, how much, and how long ago
- Physical activity
- Medical conditions
- Menstrual periods
Click here to learn how blood sugar affects your body, healthy ranges, and symptoms of too high or low levels.
So, you read how your blood pressure is the force of your blood moving through your blood vessels — now learn about your heart rate: the number of times your heart beats per minute.
Your resting heart rate is how many times your heart beats (what you can feel with your pulse) in a minute when you’ve been still for a while. Knowing your heart rate can help you monitor your fitness level and alert you if you might be developing health problems.
For adults, between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bmp) is normal.
- Take your pulse on the inside of your wrist, on the thumb side.
- Use the tips of your first two fingers (not your thumb) and press lightly over the artery.
- Count your pulse for 30 seconds and multiply by 2 to find your beats per minute.
Note: Some drugs and medications affect heart rate, meaning you may have a lower maximum heart rate and target zone. If you have a heart condition or take medication, ask your healthcare provider what your heart rate should be.
Your heart rate can be affected by:
- Stress/anxiety (higher indicates more stress)
- Level of physical activity (lower bpm when more active)
- An athlete may have a resting heart rate as low as 40 bpm.
Lower is better!