Less than half of people know what their blood pressure is, according to a new study.
And fewer than one in five know their cholesterol or blood sugar levels, according to the findings.
Researchers asked more than 1,000 American adults if they knew their blood pressure, ideal weight, cholesterol, or blood sugar levels.
Ohio State University researchers conducted the survey as they believe keeping track of these numbers can help patients identify the risk factors of heart disease.
When it came to these key heart health tests, the highest number (44 percent) knew their ideal weight (body mass index or BMI) and the fewest (15 percent) knew their blood sugar level.
For comparison, 68 percent knew their childhood address and 58 percent knew their best friend’s birthday.
Dr. Laxmi Mehta, director of Preventative Cardiology and Women’s Cardiovascular Health, said: “Recognising heart disease risk factors early and adequately treating them can potentially prevent heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.
“As a society, we need to shift from sick care to preventative care so people can live their best and fullest lives possible.”
While the survey found many Americans don’t know these health numbers off the top of their heads, they are having them regularly checked.
The majority said they had their blood pressure and heart rate checked within the last year and blood sugar and cholesterol tests within five years.
The researchers note the importance of not only getting these numbers checked but also remembering and understanding them.
Dr. Mehta said: “Most people can get screened at their physician’s office or, if they don’t have one, there are free health screening fairs as well as blood pressure machines at pharmacies.
“It’s important to not only know your numbers but be proactive with medication and lifestyle changes like diet and exercise.
“When you visit your doctor, ask what your numbers are for blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar and what a normal range is for you. Discuss your sleep habits along with diet, exercise, smoking and alcohol use.
“Also, none of us like to talk about our own weight but it’s an important conversation because being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease.”
For reference, the researchers noted healthy heart numbers are under 120 mm (0.3937 foot) Hg for the top blood pressure number and under 80 mm (0.2625 foot) Hg for the bottom number.
The researchers also note how important it is to be aware of family medical history, as many conditions can be passed down.
Dr. Mehta added: “It’s also important to know your family’s health history and discuss it with your doctor. There could be risk factors that require medication or lifestyle changes and the earlier they’re known, the better.
“Sometimes people have heart attacks or strokes because their blood pressure or cholesterol levels are really high and they never had them checked.
“It’s really important to know what your numbers are, what they mean and consult with your doctor.”
The researchers refer to a case study of Erica Hutson, 37, of Plain City, Ohio, who was in her 20s when she found out she had high cholesterol through a health check required by insurance.
Because she was young and fit, she didn’t do anything about it for 10 years.
She changed her mind about it when her father died of coronary artery disease when he was in his 60s and she discovered it ran in the family.
After being put on cholesterol medicine by doctors and being prescribed a self-injected shot at home her cholesterol levels were back in the happy and healthy range.
She said: “His death really made me think about things and put my life into a whole different perspective.
“You need to know what your family history is on both sides so you can give that information to your children and all family members can be prepared to do what it takes to stay healthy.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker