Knowing your numbers is important to your health

Our cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index are key indicators of our risk for major illness.

There are four important numbers that we all need to know in order to safeguard our health.

Our cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and body mass index are key indicators of our risk for major illness. By knowing these numbers we can take action to reduce our chances of developing heart disease, diabetes and other major illnesses.

  1. Cholesterol
    A “sudden” heart attack may not be sudden at all, but may be caused by years of living with high cholesterol and extra fats that our body stores. High cholesterol and extra fats clog our arteries and can cause heart attacks and strokes. We need to know our HDL (think “healthy”) cholesterol and our LDL (think “lousy”) cholesterol numbers, as well as the total number, and discuss ways to improve the numbers with a medical professional if necessary.

  2. Blood pressure
    Blood pressure measures the amount of force it takes our hearts to pump blood through our bodies. High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) increases our risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. It damages our brain, eyes and arteries, too. Most people have no symptoms of high blood pressure, so get checked by your health care professional. Write down the number each time you get checked to see if your efforts to improve your blood pressure are paying off!

  3. Blood sugar
    Glucose is sugar stored in the blood; it acts as our body’s main source of energy. If glucose is out of the safe range, we may have diabetes. Some of the symptoms are frequent urination, extreme hunger or thirst, unusual weight loss, increased fatigue or blurry vision. People who have already been diagnosed with diabetes need to have another test, called an A1C test. It tells diabetics how well they are controlling their blood sugar over time. Left untreated, diabetes can lead to heart disease, blindness, amputation of limbs and kidney disease.

    Even though no symptoms may be present, many people are at risk for developing diabetes. These are people who have more than one of the following: are 45 years of age or older, overweight, who get too little physical activity, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, have a parent, brother or sister with diabetes, have had a baby who weighed 9 pounds or more at birth, or are Native American, African-American or Hispanic. If you are a member of this group it is important that you have your blood sugar checked regularly.

  4. Body Mass Index Body Mass Index (BMI) measures weight in relation to height. It indicates our “fatness.” Extra weight can lead to high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses. There are many on-line sites that will help calculate body mass index, including one hosted by the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Entering your height and weight will allow the site to determine your BMI.

    Body Mass Index can also be determined “by hand” using the following formula: divide weight (in pounds) by height (in inches) squared, and multiply the result by 703.

    Example: Weight = 150 lbs. Height = 5'5" (65")

    Calculation: [150 ÷ (65 x 65 or 4225)] x 703 = 24.96

In general a BMI below 18.5 indicates a person is underweight; one from 18.5 – 24.9 shows a normal weight; 25.0 – 29.9 overweight; 30.0 and above, obese.

Every body has unique needs – for guidance that is more specific to you and your loved ones, and to set health-care goals, consult your healthcare professional.

USDA offers a food guidance system called MyPlate, which just turned one year old! Visit the My Plate website to learn more about healthy eating, weight management and physical activity, as well as to use their interactive Super Tracker and other cool tools to help you plan, analyze and track your food and physical activity!

For more information on nutrition, disease prevention, classes of interest to people living with diabetes or other chronic conditions, and other issues of interest to Michigan families, please contact a Michigan State University Extension educator in your area.

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