Know your numbers: Important information for healthy living

Do you know your blood pressure, fasting blood glucose or even cholesterol? If you do, do you know what these numbers mean for your overall health? If you don’t, how can you learn your numbers? Here’s some help.

Blood pressure

Know your numbers

According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure is called, “the silent killer” because you may have high blood pressure and not feel any symptoms. This is why it’s important to have it measured at your yearly wellness checkup. Blood pressure refers to the force of the blood pressing against the arterial walls. Excessive force can lead to damage to delicate vessels, affecting the eyes, kidneys, erectile function and vessels in the heart and brain. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, can lead to heart failure, heart attack and stroke.

Blood pressure is checked by simply using a blood pressure cuff, either manual or digital. This can be done in your physician’s office, or many local drug stores, other locations and Reid Health have machines where you can put your arm in, and it will give it a squeeze and provide you with a number. A healthy blood pressure is where the first number (systolic blood pressure) is less than 120mmHg, and the second number (diastolic blood pressure) is less than 80. Any numbers above these should be discussed with your personal physician to address lifestyle changes or treatments you may need to drop your numbers into a healthy range.

Blood glucose

After the food that we eat is digested, the body pushes out sugar into the blood stream to be taken up and used by our cells for energy. A hormone secreted by the pancreas signals to the cells that they need to bring the sugar in to be used. In diabetes, this signaling system is dysfunctional, leading to abnormally high levels of glucose in the blood and low access to glucose fuel for the cells.

Glucose is a large molecule, and excess levels of glucose can damage the vessels of the eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart. This can result in loss of vision, kidney failure, neuropathy and heart attack.

Blood glucose isn’t as easy to measure as blood pressure. It requires a fasting blood test, where you do not eat for at least eight hours, and then your blood is sometimes drawn and sent to a lab. An acceptable fasting blood glucose is below 100mg/dL, anything above that, and you should speak with your doctor for a definitive test and potential treatments.

Your yearly wellness visit should include a blood test for your fasting blood sugar, which can prevent many serious problems in the future.

Blood cholesterol

According to Princeton University Health, cholesterol is a normal part of the body’s function and important to maintaining the walls of your cells. However, excessive cholesterol ingested through the diet or produced by the liver can lead to coronary artery disease, which may result in a heart attack.

Your annual wellness check can measure the amount and the type of cholesterol in your blood, a high-density lipoprotein type actually protects you from coronary artery disease, while a low-density lipoprotein increases your risk. Triglycerides will also be measured, which indicate how the body uses the fat from your diet.

Blood cholesterol is measured by a blood test, usually at the same time as the blood glucose test, so just one blood draw results in a lot of information about your level of health.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Your body mass index is a number created from the relationship of your height to your weight. The American Heart Association has a helpful calculator that you can use at any time to determine your BMI, you only need your accurate height and weight. The result from the calculator should be less than 25 and more than 18.5. If you have questions about your result, discuss it with your doctor at your annual wellness visit.

If you know your numbers, you can help reduce your risk for heart disease and diabetes. Your annual wellness check is the key to gaining this invaluable knowledge and working with your doctor to improve your overall health.

Related links: Reid Health Value Lab Packages; Reid Health Diabetes Management.

Image credit: Flickr

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