Watch CBS News

Many Americans don't know important numbers for cholesterol and blood pressure, study shows

Heart Month: Symptoms of heart disease aren't always obvious
Heart Month: Symptoms of heart disease aren't always obvious 01:56

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Do you know your numbers, things like cholesterol and blood pressure? A new national survey shows many Americans don't.

It's important to know your numbers because you usually don't feel things like high blood pressure or cholesterol.

Symptoms of heart disease aren't always obvious. Despite being young and active, Erica Hutson has had high cholesterol since her 20s.

"It was like, how is this possible? Having high cholesterol is because you're unhealthy," she said.

Hutson said she didn't want to take medication because she was starting a family. Then her father died of coronary artery disease when she was in her 30s.

"It makes you think about things a little bit differently. Even though my diet and exercise was going pretty well, we needed to do more," she said.

Most Americans don't know the numbers that can help predict heart disease.

Less than half know their blood pressure or healthy weight, and less than one in five know their cholesterol or blood sugar levels, according to research from Ohio State University.

"If you know your numbers, you can really make a difference in your life," Dr. Laxmi Mehta of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center said.

For blood pressure, the top number should be under 120, bottom number under 80. For blood sugar, less than 100, or a hemoglobin A1C of less than 5.7.

For cholesterol, talk to a doctor about your recommended range of LDL "bad" cholesterol and triglycerides.

"The other number that we look at is your body mass index," Mehta said. "A normal range, less than 25. Another important number, the recommendation for adults is seven to nine hours of sleep," Mehta said.

Hutson is now 37 with two children. She said cholesterol lowering medication kept her numbers good but not good enough. Doctors added another self-injected medication.

"In my case, my family history, there's really nothing that I could do in my normal life to get those numbers down," she said.

Now, they are in a healthy range.

February is Heart Month, raising awareness about preventing heart disease, which involves knowing and managing numbers.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.