KNOW YOUR NUMBERS

Having extra or too much information about something is rarely a problem particularly when compared to the opposite, not enough information. This is true in most facets of our lives, in business, in our relationships and in managing our health. Being unaware or simply ignoring early signs of a health condition won’t make it go away. In fact, catching it early and addressing it can usually prevent and even reverse major concerns. Without your health, frankly without quality of life what do you really have? Being of unsound health will quickly pervade every part of your life and threaten everything that makes you, you. Being informed can’t account for every inevitability, but it can tilt odds in your favor.

Here are a few numbers to know that can go a long way to a healthier you.

Resting Heart Rate

This is the amount of times your heart beats per minute while at rest (sitting quietly at least 20 minutes).  A lower rate usually reflects a healthier more efficient circulatory system.  To take your HR either use a quality fitness tracker or place 2 fingers just to the side of your windpipe. Feel your pulse, hold gently and count for 15 seconds. Multiply by 4 and you have your number. A number of 50-60bpm is ideal. A count of 90-100bpm triples the risk of death. Regular exercise can lower HR over time.

Blood Pressure

High blood pressure often referred to as the silent killer is a strong determinant of cardiovascular disease. HBP can damage blood vessels harming organs including the heart, kidneys and brain as well as other tissues. A blood pressure of 120/80 is ideal. A systolic pressure 130-140 is considered pre-hypertensive while 150+ is considered high blood pressure. Your doctor will generally test you. You can also find free to use test units at large chain pharmacies. Dependable home testing units can be bought for $25-$50. To lower blood pressure naturally lose weight, reduce sodium intake, limit alcohol and exercise regularly.

Cholesterol

 Man on weight scale

Cholesterol is a waxy fatty substance that is found in our blood. Though there are various forms of it the most common are HDL (known as good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol).  Another type of blood fat is triglycerides. Cholesterol is checked with a blood test ideally on an empty stomach (12 hour fast). The numbers to know are total cholesterol should be under 200, HDL above 60 and LDL below 100 are ideal. Triglycerides should be under 150mg/dl. High cholesterol is commonly hereditary, so a more advanced blood test called a VAP test might be needed. In this test particle size is also taken into consideration.  Maintaining a healthy weight, eating adequate fiber, cutting excess sugars and exercising can help improve the numbers.

Blood Sugar

Blood sugar refers to the amount of glucose circulating in our blood. A high level is an indicator of elevated risk for diabetes, heart attack and stroke.  Tested for with a blood test, a number between 70-99mg/dL is ideal. 100-125mg/dL is considered prediabetic. Home tests are also available. Diabetes is rampant in our society because of excess sugar consumption in the form of simple sugars and starchy carbohydrates. While glucose is our body’s main fuel source high blood levels lead to insulin release that in turn leads to increased fat storage and low blood sugar that causes hunger cravings; usually more carbohydrates. Try cutting back on starches and white breads, processed foods, sodas and simple sugars. Exercise also helps.  

Waist Size

That dad body may be more than potentially unflattering it may be a sign of underlying dangers. I’m not a fan of MBI tables because they don’t differentiate between muscle and fat mass. Instead measure your waist just above your hip bones. Be relaxed, exhale but don’t suck in. Write that number down. Now measure your height. You want a waist size that is less than half your height. Too high a number means you are probable carrying around too much visceral (deep) fat. This fat wraps around organs inhibiting function, makes you insulin resistant and leads to cardiovascular disease.

Body Fat Percentage

You can use calipers, a smart scale, water dunk test or even an MRI to test for fat. More tests are hard to replicate. Level of hydration can greatly affect the test as can a recent meal, a salty meal the night before etc. If you choose to test your percentage make sure you do it first thing in the morning before eating or drinking, and after evacuating. Skip the salt and alcohol the night before. Follow the same protocol on any retests. For men 6-16 percent is ideal. Add 1-2% per decade not to exceed 22%.  For women 15 – 24% is ideal. You can add 1-2% points for every decade past 29 years of age not to exceed 34%.

 There you have it. Be proactive, get to know your numbers and take charge of your health. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

References:

Mayo clinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes/basics

American Heart Assoc – Understanding Blood Pressure Readings

Medlineplus.gov – What You Need To Know

Oxigenmag.com – The Fit Womans Guide To Body Fat

Medical News Today – Diabetes: Body fat percentage not BMI predicts risk         

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