Cholesterol that flows through the bloodstream is called serum (blood) cholesterol. Your body manufactures most of its blood cholesterol, but it absorbs some from the foods you eat. Your total cholesterol is measured by a doctor-ordered blood test called a lipid panel. A total blood cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL is a healthy goal. If your doctor thinks you're at risk for high cholesterol, based on family history or health status, he or she will probably order lipid panels more regularly to keep an eye on your cholesterol over time.
High cholesterol can lead to health problems, including artery blockage and heart disease. One of the best ways to lower your cholesterol is to track it. Have your doctor perform blood tests regularly so that you can both track your results and progress. For more information about lowering your cholesterol, click here.
Resting Heart Rate
Resting heart rate (RHR) is the number of times your heart beats per minute while at rest. A strong or efficient heart can pump more blood with fewer, stronger beats, while a weaker heart needs to pump faster to do the same amount of work. That's why resting heart rate is a good indicator of your state of fitness. Plus, some studies show that a higher resting heart rate can raise the chances of a heart attack.
To accurately measure your resting heart rate, count your pulse on your wrist (radial pulse) or on the side of your neck (carotid pulse) prior to getting out of bed in the morning. Count the number of beats, starting with zero, for one full minute. For accuracy, take your resting heart rate three mornings in a row and average the heart rates. Measuring your resting heart rate every month or two will help you notice trends or changes over time.
A normal resting heart rate for adults can vary from as low as 40 beats per minute (bpm) to as high as 100 bpm, according to the American Council on Exercise; 70-80 beats per minute (or fewer) is average. Men's heart rates tend to be slightly higher than women's are, and the resting heart rates of endurance athletes are often very low (below 40 bpm). Resting heart rate alone can't determine your health or fitness level, but experts agree that a lower resting heart rate is usually an indicator or greater fitness, which often translates to better heart health.
Over time, exercising regularly—especially doing cardio (aerobic) exercise and endurance training—can strengthen your heart's efficiency and lower your resting heart rate. Many factors (age, fitness level, genetics and more) can affect resting heart rate, which can also vary day to day, so it's important to notice general trends over the course of several weeks and months. As your RHR lowers, recalculate your target heart rate range every few months. If your resting heart rate suddenly elevates, it can indicate overtraining or the need for more rest and recovery from a previous workout. If you feel that your resting heart rate is of concern, talk with your health care provider.
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This article was reviewed and approved by SparkPeople experts Tanya Jolliffe, Nutritionist, and Jen Mueller, Certified Personal Trainer and Health Educator.