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Health and Fitness News

Health Numbers that Matter

Six numbers that play an important role in your health.

You know your phone number and bank account, but do you know the six numbers that equal good health? When these numbers are in a healthy range, you can rest knowing you’re doing what you can to prevent disease. Let the numbers get too high or too low, and you’re in for trouble. Fortunately, you can take steps to get them in a safe zone before it’s too late.

The early stages of disease are often silent, so you don’t know you’re sick until the disease has progressed. This is why you need regular health screenings. So at your next check-up, ask your doctor to measure these six indicators of good health and know how your numbers stack up.

1. Blood Pressure

A healthy blood pressure reading is 120/80 mm Hg or below (to a certain extent). High blood pressure means your heart has to work extra hard to pump blood. Over time, this weakens the heart muscle or makes it grow larger, which can cause heart failure. With high blood pressure, you’re at an increased risk for narrowed arteries, which puts you at risk for heart attack and stroke.

2. Body Mass Index

Knowing your body weight is one thing, but your body mass index (BMI) is a more accurate indicator of health since it takes your height into consideration. Carrying around too much body fat—regardless of whether you’re tall, short, or somewhere in between, is a major risk factor for heart disease, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m2.

3. Cholesterol

You need some cholesterol for vitamin and hormone synthesis, but too much of this fatty substance leads to a build up of plaque in your blood vessels. This causes your arteries to narrow and stiffen, decreasing blood flow and putting you at risk for heart attack or stroke. There are several cholesterol readings that play a role in your health, and you need to understand them all. Your LDL (bad) cholesterol should be below 100 mg/dL, HDL (good) cholesterol should be above 60 mg/dL, and your total blood cholesterol should be lower than 200 mg/dL.

4. Blood Sugar

The food you eat is turned into glucose (sugar), which is used by the body for energy. Insulin is the hormone that converts glucose into energy. At least that’s how the body should work. Sometimes, however, the body fails to produce enough insulin or becomes resistant to its effects. When this happens, glucose levels in the blood increase and diabetes may develop. A fasting blood glucose test can determine your blood sugar levels and risk of diabetes. Your blood sugar should read below 100 mg/dL. Between 100 and 125 mg/dL indicates prediabetes, which means diabetes isn’t far away. Anything higher than 125 mg/dL is considered diabetic.

5. Waist Circumference

Where you carry your weight matters. Belly fat is especially dangerous, as it builds up around your internal organs and produces toxins that increase inflammation and put you at higher risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. For an at-home reading, grab a tape measure to measure your waist. Women should measure 35 inches or less, and men 40 inches or less.

6. Triglycerides

The calories your body doesn’t use right away are turned into triglycerides. Stored in your fat cells, triglycerides are released for energy as needed. Eating more calories than you need can lead to high triglycerides, which contribute to the hardening and thickening of the arteries, heart attack, and stroke. A simple blood test can make sure your triglycerides fall below 150 mg/dL.