Know your numbers

Photo of blueberries

Your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems is influenced by your genes, age, sex, race, lifestyle, and other factors. While you can't change some risk factors, you can modify others.

Blood pressure

CategoryTarget goal
All healthy adults         Below 140/90    
High-risk adults*Below 130/90

A healthy blood pressure helps protect you from heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease.

*Refers to adults over age 75 or any adult with chronic kidney disease, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), or with elevated ASCVD risk. Some exceptions to these recommendations apply—discuss these and your personal preferences with your doctor.

Cholesterol

Total cholesterol above 200 mg/dL is generally considered high. All people with diabetes should consider taking a “statin” that lowers cholesterol after you're 40 years old. Treatment decisions around the use of statins and other medications to improve your health are based on your overall risk for heart attack and stroke, not just on your cholesterol level. Decide with your doctor what is best for you.

Blood sugar (glucose)

If you have type 2 diabetes, there are 2 numbers you may need to watch: your hemoglobin A1c levels and your home blood sugars.

Lab tests

Hemoglobin A1c measures your long-term control of the glucose in your blood. The results of this blood test tell your doctor how well you are managing your diabetes.

  • Adults with diabetes should have a target goal of hemoglobin A1c below 7 percent.
  • Adults over age 65 or with significant health issues may have a less stringent target goal.

Home tests

Testing your blood sugar regularly may help you treat low or high blood sugar before it becomes a problem. In this test, you will need to prick your finger, palm, or forearm with a small needle to collect a drop of blood and place it on a special test strip, which you insert into the blood glucose meter. The blood glucose meter will tell you your results.

Time of dayTarget range
Before meals80 to 140
2 hours after meals  Below 180
At bedtime

100 to 140

These are general ranges and you and your doctor may want to adjust them based on your age, how long you have had diabetes, or if you have complications or difficulty with low blood sugar.

Waist size

Waist size is one way to measure abdominal fat. Having a greater amount of abdominal fat increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other health conditions.

Measure around your waist at your belly button. You're at increased risk if your waist measurement is more than:

  • 40 inches (men)
  • 35 inches (women)

Body mass index

Body mass index (BMI) is a calculation based on height and weight that can help determine whether you are at a healthy weight, underweight, or overweight.

BMIWhat it means (for most people)
Below 19 At risk for being underweight
19-24.9Healthy range 
25-29.9At risk for being overweight and developing weight-related health conditions
30 or aboveAt risk for obesity and developing weight-related health conditions

What BMI doesn't do

While BMI is part of your health, it does not show the full picture. It's important to keep a few points in mind when thinking about BMI.

  • As we age, we often lose muscle mass and gain fat. An elderly person might fall into the "normal" range, but still have too much body fat because BMI can't tell what's fat and what's muscle.
  • Where you carry your extra weight matters, even if you fall into the "normal" range. Abdominal fat can put at risk for serious health issues caused by extra weight.

Reviewed by: Craig W. Robbins, MD, January 2019

© 2015 Kaiser Permanente