If you’re looking to take steps towards better health, knowing your numbers is a great place to start. Four simple readings can paint a solid picture of your health — and reflect early signs of illness before any symptoms surface. Here are the numbers that you and your doctor should monitor.
- Blood pressure
- Blood cholesterol (HDL/LDL)
- Fasting blood glucose
- Body mass index (BMI/weight)
“Preventing heart disease starts with lifestyle modifications for diet, exercise, stress reduction and smoking cessation,” says Robert Fishberg, MD, a cardiologist with Atlantic Health System. “This, along with knowing your numbers and working with your doctor to catch issues at their earliest stages makes it possible to delay, reverse, and even prevent some diseases.”
Know Your Numbers and Your Risk Level
1. Blood Pressure
A blood pressure reading has two numbers: the top number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats (systolic), the bottom number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats (diastolic). Healthy blood pressure should be below 120/80 mmHg.
Higher numbers should be monitored regularly because that means your heart is working extra hard. Over time, high blood pressure can cause the heart to enlarge or weaken, and can lead to heart failure, heart attack or stroke.
2. Cholesterol (HDL/LDL)
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in your blood. Healthy blood cholesterol should stay below 200 mg/dL — with good cholesterol (HDL) above 60 mg/d and bad cholesterol (LDL) below 100 mg/dL. Triglycerides are also a type of fat in your body and should remain under 150 mg/dL.
3. Fasting Blood Glucose
Extra sugar in your blood can harm organs and damages nerves and blood vessels. Healthy blood sugar should be below 100 mg/dL. Anything higher can indicate prediabetes, with 125 mg/DL hitting the diabetic range. A1C measures your blood sugar levels over three months and should be below 5.7%.
4. Body Mass Index (BMI/Weight)
BMI is a height-to-weight ratio that calculates excess body fat. A healthy BMI should be below 24.9. A BMI over 30 is dangerous to your health and can increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and sleep apnea.
Working Towards Better Health
“Everyone should get baseline measurements starting at age 20,” says Dr. Fishberg. “We will help you understand your health risk based on family history, lifestyle, and your four key numbers. With this information, we’ll work together on a health plan that helps you live your best life and avoid serious health issues down the road.”
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