Do you know your health numbers? These are numbers that all women and men who are concerned about their health should be aware of since they predict the risk of future health problems such as heart disease or diabetes. Keep these five numbers on your radar, and take steps to keep them within range if you value your health.
High blood pressure is linked with a greater risk for heart disease, kidney disease and stroke so it’s an important number to know your numbers. Fortunately, it’s simple to check your blood pressure either at home, at a drugstore or at your doctor’s office. Check your pressure at least every six months if you have no history of hypertension. If you’ve had abnormal readings in the past or have a family history of high blood pressure, monitor it more often. This is one of the most important health numbers to know and one that’s easy to keep track of.
A total cholesterol level is a good screening tool, but it’s also important to know the specifics such as your LDL (bad cholesterol level), HDL (good cholesterol level) and your triglyceride level. All of these numbers say something about your future risk for heart disease. Check your numbers on at least every five years and more often if you’ve had an abnormal reading or heart disease runs in your family.
Most people want a small waistline so they look good in their clothing, but waist size also says something about health. A large waist is indicative of higher levels of visceral abdominal fat, the type that lies deep in the pelvis and increases the risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Waist size may be a better predictor of heart disease risk than weight or BMI. Men who have a waist size greater than 40 inches and women with a waist measurement over 35 inches are at higher risk for future health problems. When you check your body weight, use a tape measure to check your waist size too.
Resting Heart Rate
Research shows that people with a faster resting pulse rate are at increased risk for future heart problems and have a higher risk of premature death from all causes. In one study, women who had a pulse rate of greater than 76 were at greater risk for death than those with a pulse rate of 62 or less. The good news is you can lower your heart rate and your risk through regular exercise, dietary modifications and weight loss.
Many people are walking around with type 2 diabetes and don’t know it. People with diabetes are often asymptomatic and the symptoms they have can be subtle. Elevated blood sugars can do “silent” damage to blood vessels and organs throughout your body. Get a fasting blood sugar checked at least yearly and more often if you have a family history of diabetes. If you have borderline-high blood sugar levels, make the appropriate dietary and lifestyle modifications to bring your numbers down.
The Bottom Line?
These health numbers count when it comes to health. Know what they are and what changes you need to make to bring them into a healthy range. Your health depends on it.
European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation. 2011; 18(3): 488-497.
Merck Manual. Eighteenth edition.