A long life free of heart disease does not come just from controlling the standard measures like blood pressure and cholesterol. Sure, keeping tabs on these indicators is essential to gauging your heart's health, but a few other numbersÃ¢â‚¬â€some surprisingÃ¢â‚¬â€can be meaningful as well. It's awareness worth having. The American Heart Association noted in its annual review for 2010 that while the death rate due to cardiovascular disease in the United States fell between 1996 and 2006, the burden of the disease is still high. More than 1 in 3 deaths was related to heart disease in 2006. U.S. News consulted with cardiology experts to round up the target numbers you should strive for to keep your ticker in good working condition over the long haul. 1. Alcohol intake Those fond of tipple may be dismayed, but the science on alcohol as an agent to promote heart health is just not definitive. "If you have heart disease, alcohol plays no role in your medicine cabinet; if [you do] not, alcohol is not the right way to reduce your risk," says Jonathan Whiteson, director of the Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Program at New York University Langone Medical Center. Some research has suggested that drinking red wine may increase one's HDL, or "good" cholesterol, but Whiteson notes that the boost is minimal. "Exercise [offers] a better increase in HDL," he says. While he's not against a drink in a social setting, it's certainly not something folksÃ¢â‚¬â€especially those with heart diseaseÃ¢â‚¬â€should engage in with the idea that it will offer a heart benefit, says Whiteson. In fact, medications' effectiveness can be either hampered or heightened by alcohol, sometimes to a dangerous extent. (Common herbal supplements can interact with heart drugs, too). And drinking too much can lead to high blood pressure or increased blood levels of triglycerides, a type of fat. Bottom line: The American Heart Association suggests that otherwise healthy individuals who drink should do so in moderation. That is defined as one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. And be careful with that pour: The AHA defines a drink as one 12-ounce beer, a 4 ounce glass of wine, 1.5 ounce of 80-proof spirits, or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits. 2. Salt intake Some experts say that the pervasive use of sodium in the America diet is wreaking havoc on our cardiovascular systems. "Sodium causes retention of fluid within the circulation, and if you're sodium-sensitive, it expands your blood volume and can contribute to high blood pressure, stroke, and other heart disease," explains Clyde Yancy, medical director of the Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas and spokesman for the American Heart Association. A report in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that if Americans reduced daily salt intake by 3 grams, we could significantly lower the annual number of new cases of coronary heart disease (by between 60,000 and 120,000), stroke (by 32,000 to 66,000), heart attack (by 54,000 to 99,000), and even the number of deaths from any cause (by 44,000 to 92,000). The paper's authors noted previous research that showed the average American man consumes 10.4 grams of salt daily, while the average American woman gets 7.3 grams. Bottom line: The AHA recommends Americans limit salt intake to 1.5 grams daily. Be wary: Sodium creeps in via unexpected sources, and it's not so much the salt shaker on our table that's to blame. Research suggests we get as much as 80 percent of our daily salt intake from processed foods. 3. Sugar intake It's not just the savory flavors that'll get you; sweets, too, can ultimately become a cause for concern, says the American Heart Association. Like salt, sugar creeps into the processed foods that make up much of the American diet, and sweetened beveragesÃ¢â‚¬â€soda, juices, and sports drinksÃ¢â‚¬â€are especially loaded with the stuff. Here's some disturbing math for you: A 12-ounce can of soda has about 8 teaspoons (or 33 grams) of added sugars, totaling about 130 calories. (A gram of sugar translates into 4 calories.) A can of Coke or Pepsi, then, basically takes you to the AHA's new upper limit on the recommended amount of added sugar Americans should ingest on a daily basis. The association's primary concern is the number of excess calories that added sugars sneak into our diets and pile onto our waistlines, which can contribute to metabolic changes that increase the chances of developing a host of diseases. Bottom line: According to the AHA, women should get no more than 100 calories per day of added sugars and men should stop at 150 calories per day. 4. Resting heart rate How hard does your heart have to workÃ¢â‚¬â€and how fast does it have to pumpÃ¢â‚¬â€to get oxygen-rich blood throughout your body? A lower number suggests your cardiovascular system is more efficient at doing this. Thus, a highly trained athlete can have a resting heart rate in the 40s, says Whiteson. And while the research is still emerging on what one's resting heart rate predicts about heart disease risk, a picture is beginning to take shape. "There is certain evidence to support [the idea that] a higher resting heart rate is associated with heart disease," especially ischemic heart disease, he says, which involves reduced blood flow (and oxygen) getting to heart arteries and the heart muscle. This effect seems to be more pronounced in women than in men, but a study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggested that in women up to the age of 70, every 10-beats-per-minute increase in resting heart rate boosted the risk of dying from ischemic heart disease by 18 percent. In men, the risk was increased by 10 percent for every extra 10 beats per minute, and age didn't have an impact. The study also found that women who got high levels of physical activity were able to reduce their risk of death considerably, compared with those who did little or no activity. The same effect was not found in men, but the researchers suggest the results may have been skewed because men tend to overestimate how much exercise they get. Bottom line: A normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Check yours by finding your wrist's pulse, counting the beats in a 15-second period, then multiplying by four. 5. Hours of sleep per night An overcaffeinated America seems to perpetually crave more shut-eye. And evidence is cropping up to suggest that a poor night's sleep is not only felt the next day but could have implications for one's heart over the long term. It is well established that sleep apnea, which results in numerous interruptions to breathing while asleep, is associated with stroke and coronary artery disease. The reason is not clear, says Whiteson, but it's been hypothesized that people with disrupted sleep breathing have higher blood pressure overall because they don't get the restorative sleep that normally allows blood pressure to go down and gives the cardiovascular system a break during slumber. And a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that middle-aged people who got five hours of shut-eye or less a night had a greater risk of developing coronary artery disease than those who got eight hours. The clue was the beginnings of calcium buildup in their arteries, found by CT scanning long before the disease process would normally be picked up. Bottom line: Get eight hours of sleep per night. Making it happen isn't easy, we know. 6. Exercise You've heard it a thousand times over, and the message stays the same: Regular, heart-thumping exercise offers a multitude of health benefits, particularly for cardiovascular fitness. Perhaps clinicians (and health writers) keep bashing us over the head with that fact because of the eye-popping number of American adults who reported getting zero vigorous activity in a 2008 Centers of Disease Control and Prevention survey: 59 percent. Bottom line: For a clean bill of health, the major health associations (including the AHA and the American College of Sports Medicine) suggest a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each weekÃ¢â‚¬â€say, brisk walking that boosts your heart rate. This translates into 30 minutes of exercise on five days of the week. Twice-weekly strength training of eight to 10 exercises, up to 12 reps each, is also on their to-do list. Whiteson at NYU Langone Medical Center suggests that those who don't have heart disease should bump that recommendation up to 60 minutes a day, five days a week of vigorous activity, where you're breathing pretty heavily and sweating. But he offers a concession: "You can break it up" into, say, three 20-minute sessions per day, since "the effect of aerobic exercise is cumulative." He also thinks those without heart disease should do strength training thrice weekly. Individuals with heart disease should always discuss a new exercise regimen with a doctor first, he says.