Healthy Living Part 4: Know Your Numbers
Knowing some important numbers, and truly understanding what these numbers mean, is an extremely important step to healthy living. Check with your doctor or calculate these numbers yourself in order to determine how you can adjust your eating and exercise habits for a healthier and improved lifestyle.
1. The top (systolic) number represents the pressure while the heart contracts to pump blood to the body.
2. The bottom (diastolic) number represents the pressure when the heart relaxes between beats.
Diastolic high blood pressure refers to the blood pressure in between muscle contractions. Doctors and medical experts have stated that diastolic high blood pressure should be taken seriously because it causes more harm to the body than systolic does. Higher rates of diastolic pressure cause adverse effects on the brain, heart and kidney. Individuals with high diastolic blood pressure should try to maintain this number below 90.
If you find that your pressure is above 140 systolic, (the top number) then you have hypertension. If your pressure is above 90 diastolic, (the bottom number) you have hypertension. Many people do not have symptoms until something “bad” happens, however, by then the damage has been done. Hypertension is often referred to as the silent killer, and leads to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney failure, and blindness. If you have high blood pressure, be sure to take your medication as your doctor has prescribed it.
Check your cholesterol. Your total cholesterol should be below 200. Your HDL is your good cholesterol, and the number is raised by exercising. The HDL cholesterol should be about 50, and the higher the better! Your LDL is your “bad” cholesterol, and this cholesterol should be under 100. To help you remember which is which, your HDL is happy and your want it to be high. Your LDL is your loser cholesterol and you want it to be low. Silly mnemonic, but it works!
Check your blood sugar. Fasting sugar should be under 100. Any isolated level over 200 grants you access into the wonderful world of diabetes. Diet and exercise as well as maintaining an ideal body weight are the first steps to avoid diabetes!
Check your Body Mass Index (BMI). Many websites offer a BMI calculator; all you need to do is enter your height and weight and it will compute your number. Under 18.5 is considered underweight. Normal is 18.5 to 24.9. Over weight is 25 to 29.9 and anything over 30 is considered obese. Check out this simple BMI calculator provided by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute!
Knowledge is power, so know your numbers. If you know them you can control them, and if you don’t then the numbers can control you!