Numbers to Live By

60-100 beats a minute: a healthy resting heart rate. For most people, the lower the heart rate, the more efficiently the heart is pumping. This can be seen in athletes around the world, whose resting heart rates tend to be low, but increase rapidly when they put forth effort. Olympic gold medalist Miguel Indurain’s resting heart rate of 28 beats per minute may be what allowed him to endure and win the Tour de France five different times.

18.5 to 24.9: a normal Body Mass (BMI) Index for women. BMI is a screening tool used to measure a person’s body fat percentage based on weight and height. It can be an indicator of a weight problem. However, because BMI doesn’t account for body type, abnormal amounts of muscle or muscle loss, doctors who suspect an issue will use a more diagnostically accurate measure, such as a “pinch test” that measure the thickness of skin folds. You can calculate your BMI on Harvard Medical’s website at

85 decibels: the level of sound pressure that can cause hearing loss. According the Healthy Hearing Foundation, an estimated 22 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have some level of noise induced hearing loss [NIHL]. NIHL happens when the tiny hairs in the cochlea are damaged by loud sounds. Gun shots, heavy machinery and even thunder can cause hearing loss, depending on the intensity, frequency, and length of exposure. Experts recommend limiting exposure to loud sounds and wearing protective gear whenever possible.

Less than 120/80: a healthy adult’s blood pressure. If you’ve ever been confused by those two numbers, you’re not alone. The top number is a measure of systolic pressure, or the pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle is constricted. The bottom number is a measure of diastolic pressure, or the pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle releases and the blood is flowing freely. Blood pressure cuffs are available at most pharmacies, so you can check your blood pressure frequently at no expense.

150 minutes of moderate exercise: the minimal amount of exercise you should get each week according to the Department of Health and Human Services. This should be combined with strength training a couple times a week. Gretchen Reynolds, author of The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer, says “At least 20 minutes a day makes a truly profound difference in your health and dramatically reduces the risk of a whole host of diseases, particularly diabetes, heart disease and dementia, as well as cancer.”

4-6 glasses: The amount of water you need each day to stay hydrated. We all remember when eight 8 ounce glasses a day was the recommendation, but researchers have lowered that recommendation because the body gets water from other food and drink sources. Keep in mind however, that your body’s needs can increase or decrease depending on your diet, health, level of activity, and the climate in which you live. Ultimately, to avoid the effects of dehydration such as constipation and kidney stones, you should drink enough water to prevent thirst and to produce urine that is light in color. You can calculate your body’s water needs with the online tool at

Once a month: how often you should give yourself a breast exam. According to the Johns Hopkins Hospital, “Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.”