… these obvious risk factors, which experts say aren’t being monitored closely enough. Healthy numbers look like this:

• Total cholesterol less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

• LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol less than 100 mg/dL; less than 70 mg/dL if you’ve already had a heart attack or have vascular disease.

• HDL, or “good,” cholesterol greater than 60 mg/dL.

• Triglycerides (another form of fat in the blood) less than 150 mg/dL.

• Blood pressure less than 120/80 mm Hg. High blood pressure (aka hypertension) is defined as 140/90 mm Hg or higher.

• Fasting blood sugar less than 100 mg/dL. If it’s 126 mg/dL or higher, you have diabetes.

If your numbers don’t fall within this range, make a specific plan with your doctor about how to get them where they should be – even if they’re only slightly elevated. And don’t drop the ball: Ask your doctor when she would like to see you again. At that checkup, she should ask how you’re doing and help strategize how to keep your numbers in the healthy range.

Take control, see the payoff

• Walking briskly for three to five hours a week can cut your risk of heart disease by as much as 35 percent.

• Lower your cholesterol and your heart disease risk goes down within six months. If your cholesterol stays healthy, your risk can drop up to 75 percent within two years.

• Lower your blood pressure and you’ll lower your chances of having a heart attack and stroke by 20 percent to 50 percent.

• Control your blood sugar if you have diabetes and you may slash your heart disease risk by 20 percent or more.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.