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Do You Know the Important Health Numbers?

March 27, 2020

When you’re trying to live a healthy life, one important piece of the puzzle is to stay on top of your health with regular checkups. During those checkups, you’ll get a look at some important health numbers.

You know that checking in with the doctor is important when you’re sick. But it’s also important when you’re well.

David P. Guthrie, MD, West Tennessee Medical Group

That’s because preventive care plays a key role in ensuring you stay well. 

During regular checkups, your doctor can order a number of age-appropriate health tests and screenings. The results give you some health numbers you should keep tabs on.

But what exactly are those health numbers—and why do they matter? David Guthrie, MD, primary care physician with West Tennessee Medical Group, breaks it down:

Health Numbers to Know: Blood Pressure
You’ve probably had many blood pressure checks in your lifetime. But do you know what exactly this is testing for?

Blood pressure is the pressure with which your blood is hitting your artery walls as it moves throughout the body. So, if you have high blood pressure, your blood is hitting those walls very forcefully. Over time, this can damage the walls and make it more difficult for your heart to pump oxygenated blood, increasing your risk of heart-related health issues, including heart disease.

High blood pressure does not typically have symptoms, so it’s essential to have your blood pressure checked regularly. It should at least be checked annually as part of your well-person checkup.

You want to aim for a blood pressure reading of less than 120/80 mmHg.

Health Numbers to Know: Cholesterol
High cholesterol is another condition that can be dangerous to your health while not causing noticeable symptoms. A cholesterol panel—sometimes referenced as a lipid panel—is also typically included as part of your annual checkup.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the body that’s necessary for helping it digest certain important nutrients and develop hormones. But too much of the “bad” kind can be dangerous for your health.

So, what is a cholesterol test looking at? Instead of giving one reading like most other health-related tests, cholesterol panels look at several different cholesterol-related factors—including your total cholesterol, your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and your triglyceride level.

In general, you want your HDL to be high but your other readings to be low. Aim for a total cholesterol of less than 200mg/dL, an LDL of less than 100mg/dL, an HDL of at least 40mg/dL in men and at least 50mg/dL in women, and a triglyceride level of less than 150mg/dL.

Health Numbers to Know: Blood Glucose
This one’s pretty straight-forward. Your blood glucose is the amount of glucose—or sugar—in your blood. Too much sugar in the blood puts you at a higher risk of developing diabetes and associated complications, including heart disease.

Blood glucose is typically measured as part of fasting blood work conducted during your annual checkup. If you have diabetes or need your blood glucose checked more often, your doctor may also recommend having what’s known as an A1c test.

Your doctor will be able to recommend a specific target blood glucose range, but in general, you want to aim for a fasting blood glucose of less than 100 or an A1c of less than or around 7 percent.

Health Numbers to Know: Body Weight
Body weight can be tricky to use as a health metric. It’s often seen as a flawed test of determining a person’s health, so doctors typically use this as part of several health numbers to gauge your health and wellness.

Your doctor will certainly measure your actual body weight but other health numbers related to weight may also be used. This may include body mass index, which is a calculation based on your height, weight and other factors.

While BMI was typically a gold standard for determining whether a person is at a healthy weight, it’s recently been recognized that it isn’t a good measure for certain groups, including those with a high muscle mass. In its place, many doctors now use waist circumference to determine whether a person is at a healthy weight.

When looking at waist circumference, women should aim for a waist of less than 35 inches, while men should aim for a waist of less than 40.

Has it been a while since you last had a checkup? Now’s the perfect time to schedule one—and find out your important health numbers!

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