Four Health Numbers You Should Know
Our lives are full of important numbers that tell people who we are. We’ve committed many of them to memory: phone numbers, social security numbers, PIN numbers. There some other numbers you should be aware of – your health numbers. Knowing your numbers makes you informed and aware of lifestyle changes you may need to make to improve your health. Here are the important numbers:
High blood pressure increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in America. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. Blood pressure is shown as two numbers: systolic (top number) is how hard the heart pumps during a heartbeat. Diastolic (bottom number) shows how hard your blood flows between heartbeats. The higher the pressure, the harder your heart is working.
- Normal blood pressure is below 120/80.
- Pre-hypertension is 120 to 139 (systolic) and/or 80 to 89 (diastolic).
- Hypertension (high blood pressure) – is 140 or higher (systolic) and 90 or higher (diastolic). High blood pressure is diagnosed after several high readings, not just one incident.
Although cholesterol is often seen as ‘bad’, it is actually a nutrient. This soft, fat-like waxy substance is found in the blood stream and cells. HDL (good cholesterol) carries fats in the blood away from the arteries and back to the liver where it is removed. LDL (bad cholesterol) promotes buildup and blockage in arteries and can increase risk for heart disease. Triglycerides circulate cholesterol in the blood and are stored in body fat. Most of the fats we consume in food are triglycerides. Your total cholesterol should be 200 mg/dL or lower. HDL, LDL and other lipid components make up your total cholesterol number. A healthy cholesterol makeup consists of:
- HDL of at least 50 mg/dL for women, or 40 mg/dL for a man
- LDL of 100 or lower
- Triglycerides of 150 mg/dL or lower
Blood sugar measures the glucose (sugar) in the blood. Have your blood sugar tested to assess your risk for diabetes. Living with untreated diabetes can increase your risk for heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. Healthy glucose levels are:
- Fasting (nothing to eat for at least 8 hours) - Less than 100 mg/dl
- Non-fasting (something to eat or drink prior to testing) – Less than 140 mg/dl
Body Mass Index is a number calculated using a person’s weight and height. A high amount of body fat can lead to weight-related diseases and other health issues and being underweight can also put one at risk for health issues.
- Underweight (BMI less than 18.5)
- Normal weight (BMI between 18.5 & 24.9)
- Overweight (BMI between 25.0 & 29.9)
- Obese (BMI 30.0 and above)
Here is the formula to calculate BMI:
BMI= weight in lbs x 703/height in inches2 or go to heart.org and search on ‘BMI calculator’.
You can get your numbers during your annual wellness exam with your health care provider. It's a good idea to schedule your blood work a week before your annual wellness exam, so your doctor has the results and can review them with you during your exam. Having an annual wellness exam can serve as a warning system to catch health problems early on. If you haven’t had your wellness exam this year make it a priority and schedule it today.
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