Warning lights on your dashboard alert you to take action before your car leaves you stranded. Similarly, your body has indicators to caution you that health problems may be ahead. These four numbers give you and your physician a quick gauge of your health. If you don’t know your numbers, it’s probably time for a check-up.
Blood pressure measures the amount of effort it takes your
heart to pump blood through your body. Normal blood pressure
is below 120/80. Known as the silent killer, high blood pressure
often has no symptoms. One in three adults has high blood
pressure, which increases your risk of heart attack, stroke and
Blood glucose is the sugar stored in the blood as your body’s
main source of energy. Blood glucose levels fluctuate after eating,
so physicians prefer to measure fasting blood sugar. A fasting
blood sugar greater than 100 may indicate diabetes or prediabetes.
Left untreated, diabetes can lead to heart disease, blindness,
kidney disease or amputation of legs or arms. Symptoms of
diabetes include frequent urination, extreme hunger or thirst,
unexplained weight loss, increased fatigue or blurry vision.
Cholesterol measures a type of fat in your bloodstream. Strive
for total cholesterol of less than 200, but you also need to
know your “good” HDL cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol
numbers. High total cholesterol, low HDL or high LDL means
you need to take action to prevent a possible heart attack or stroke.
The size of your waist predicts your heart disease risk even
better than weight or body mass index. If your waist size is over
35 inches for women or over 40 inches for men, your risk of
cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic problems, high blood
pressure and high cholesterol is raised.
Once you know your numbers, improve them by making
healthy lifestyle choices to reduce your risk of heart disease,
diabetes and high blood pressure. There are two more numbers
that can improve your health: 30 minutes of exercise most days
and five servings of fruits or vegetables each day.
Written by Meenu Sharma, M.D.
A board-certified internist, Dr. Meenu Sharma practices on the campus
of Huguley Memorial Medical Center. Prior to joining Huguley Medical
Associates, Dr. Sharma practiced internal medicine in Branson, Missouri