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The numbers that matter

More and more doctors feel that body mass index, or BMI, isn't the best gauge of health. So consider these barometers as well.
/ Source: Womens Health

More and more doctors feel that body mass index, or BMI, isn't the best gauge of health. So consider these barometers as well.

Blood pressure
Calculates how intensely your heart works to pump blood through your body. It's broken into two parts: systolic, which measures outgoing flow, and diastolic, which assesses incoming flow. The heavier you are, the more real estate your heart has to service — and the harder it has to labor.

How it's measured: With that familiar arm cuff at your doc's office. Healthy women should be screened at their annual physical.

Healthy range: 90/60 to 120/80 (systolic/ diastolic)

Resting heart rate
Measures how many times your heart beats per minute when you're resting (read: not stressed out). A heart that's chronically overworked, such as one pumping blood to a too-heavy body, can become enlarged and susceptible to a heart attack.

How it's measured: Take your pulse for 60 seconds in the a.m. by placing a finger on your carotid artery, located just below your right ear. Do it a few days in a row; if the number is too high, see your M.D.

Healthy range: 60 to 100 beats per minute

Made up of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the "bad" cholesterol that can cause arterial blockages, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the "good" cholesterol that removes LDL deposits. Some docs also measure very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) and triglycerides, chemical fats associated with cardiac risk.

How it's measured: Get screened at least once every five years at your doctor's office.

Healthy ranges: LDL below 100, HDL above 50, VLDL under 40, triglycerides below 150

Fasting blood glucose
Tallies the amount of sugar in your bloodstream. A high score means your body is likely unable to metabolize all the sugar in the foods you're eating. People who consistently overconsume run the risk of high blood sugar and diabetes.

How it's measured: Your doctor can check your glucose at the same time as your cholesterol.

Healthy range: 70 to 100

Waist-to-hip ratio
Studies have shown this works better than BMI in terms of predicting heart disease, because it measures potentially risky abdominal fat.

How it's measured: Get your waist circumference by wrapping a measuring tape around the narrowest part of your stomach, usually right at or above your belly button. Then measure around the widest part of your hips and butt. Divide the first number by the second. Check yourself once every year.

Healthy range: 0.6 to 0.8

Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention