With the new year upon us, many of us are concentrating on our resolutions and, too often, those resolutions are fixated on just one number: our weight. Yet, weight often doesn’t give the true wellness story. To help you get a sense of some important numbers to know about your health, we asked Dr. Michaela Renich of Mooresville Family Practice for her insight. “When I look at health, I first look at three different numbers. I want to know what someone’s blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol is,” she says. This year, make it your resolution to know these numbers for yourself. Make an appointment for a physical with a full work-up of everything your doctor feels is essential for you to know about your health. Then, once you find out this important information along with your numbers in the categories below, work to maintain or improve them to really master your wellness.
Blood PressureWhat it is:
Put simply, blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries. Basically, a blood pressure reading calculates how hard your heart is working to move blood through your body. There are two numbers you see in a blood pressure reading: the systolic number, which measures the pressure as the heart beats, and the diastolic, which measures the pressure while the heart relaxes between beats.
What’s healthy?: Under 120/80 (systolic/diastolic)
What if you are over?: “When we look at blood pressure, we consider if there is a fairly immediate danger or is this something that we need to get on top of to prevent complications like stroke, heart disease and kidney disease later on,” explains Dr. Renich. Your doctor may prescribe medication, but also do your part by exercising everyday for at least 10 minutes a day with a goal of moving to 30 minutes a day and being mindful of your diet.
Fasting Blood Sugar/Glucose
What it is:
A blood glucose test measures the amount of glucose, a type of sugar, in your bloodstream. When a high volume of glucose is present in your bloodstream over time, it can damage your blood vessels, which has many consequences.
What’s healthy?: Under 100 milligrams per deciliter of blood.
What if you are over?: “There is a lot of diabetes that is as yet undiagnosed. Diagnosing it as early as possible becomes our goal. We’re looking at a fasting sugar for the last two hours. And we’d like to see that be less than 100. If you are in the 100-110 range, there’s an area for concern. Greater than 110 requires taking another look,” says Dr. Renich. Follow-up might include lifestyle changes and medication.
CholesterolWhat it is:
Cholesterol is a waxy-like substance found in all cells. When a doctor tests for cholesterol, she is looking to measure both the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), often called the bad cholesterol because it can cause blockages in your artery, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), often called the good cholesterol because it moves cholesterol from other parts of your body to your liver where your liver removes the cholesterol from your body. High cholesterol very rarely exhibits symptoms and, yet, can lead to heart disease. As Dr. Renich notes, “You cannot tell someone’s cholesterol just by looking at him.”
What’s healthy?: A total cholesterol of less than 200.
What if you are over?: Medications and lifestyle changes can positively impact one’s cholesterol numbers. “These numbers change depending on a person’s other health issues,” explains Dr. Renich. “Your good cholesterol or HDL should be greater than 35. Your bad cholesterol or LDL should be less than 130. What we do with cholesterol is try to achieve lower numbers in people who already have other risks. If you have diabetes, for example, in order to reduce your risk of heart disease, we would like to push you to a lower cholesterol goal where we see your LDL at less than 100.” Also, Dr. Renich notes that young adults may not need their cholesterol screened as often as older adults. “If you are less than 30, you don’t need to get it checked every year. Every two to three years is sufficient. In someone’s 30s, if I don’t have a cholesterol every two years, I get one. You might have to get it every three months if you have known high cholesterol. As you get older, you will move to yearly checks.”