Know Your Numbers—It’s Critical to Good Health

You know your Social Security number, your telephone number and your license plate number. But do you know the numbers that are essential to maintaining your health?

Becoming familiar with your numbers and taking steps to improve or maintain them is important to staying healthy and preventing the development of chronic health conditions. What are the numbers that should figure into your efforts to keep maladies at bay?

Blood pressure can be an indicator of cardiovascular problems. When your blood pressure is high, your heart has to work harder to pump blood throughout your body. Readings of 130/80 and below, as recommended by the American Heart Association’s revised guidelines, are considered within an acceptable range. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 75 million American adults (29%) suffer from high blood pressure or hypertension. The condition increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Making lifestyle changes can help to lower your blood pressure. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables and adopting a diet that’s low in salt, total fat and saturated fat can help to lower blood pressure readings.

High blood sugar is an indicator of diabetes. Readings of 70 to 100 mg/dL on a fasting glucose test or below 5.7% on an A1C test are typically considered normal. Diabetes increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as dangerous kidney and eye conditions. More than 29 million American adults, or 9.3% of the U.S. population, are living with diabetes as of 2015, according to a Centers for Disease Control report. Prompt diagnosis of diabetes and tight control of blood
sugar numbers are essential to defending against problematic conditions.

Total cholesterol is a composite number that is comprised of levels of low-density lipoprotein or LDL, high-density lipoprotein or HDL, and triglycerides. It’s a measure of a substance in cells that help the body make hormones, vitamin D and bile acids for digestion. The Centers for Disease Control reports that 102 million American adults have total cholesterol levels at 200 mg/dL or above. Ideal total cholesterol is considered to be less than 200 mg/dL. Diet, weight loss and exercise can all contribute to lowering total cholesterol.

Measuring your waist circumference requires no lab tests, yet it is a number that helps inform your health profile. A waist size of 40 inches and above indicates the accumulation of abdominal fat. This contributes to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. A healthy diet, exercise program and the daily addition of soluble fiber, such as oatmeal or apples, can help to reduce the accumulation of this dangerous belly fat.

In every case, it’s important to know your own personal numbers and work with your provider to keep them at optimal levels. Lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthy diet, developing an exercise regimen, limiting alcohol consumption, and stopping smoking all contribute to improving your health status. If your provider prescribes medications, always take them as directed.

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