Know Your Numbers

It’s as Easy as 1, 2, 3

Children usually learn their numbers before they even start kindergarten. As adults we are bombarded with numbers all day every day: phone numbers, dates, credit card numbers, and on and on. But more important than all those numbers are your health numbers. Five little numbers that can add years to your life.

1. Blood Pressure
2. Cholesterol Level
3. Body-Mass Index (BMI)
4. Waist Size
5. Blood Sugar and Hemoglobin A1c

These numbers are like grades on your health report card. Good grades mean you are rewarding yourself with a healthy heart. Bad grades mean you need to quickly begin making healthier decisions.

“Own your risk factors or they will own you,” says Dr. Sanjay Jaswani of Southside Internal Medicine.

The numbers are simple and easy to check. And most importantly, unlike your grade school papers, higher numbers are not better numbers.

1. Blood Pressure

“The Silent Killer”
There is no reason not to know your blood pressure. Devices used to measure blood pressure are inexpensive and readings are available for free at many local stores and pharmacies. Measure your blood pressure while calm and after sitting for at least five minutes. Also keep in mind that a blood pressure reading has two numbers such as “one-twenty over eighty.” Both numbers are important. The first number is systolic which indicates the pressure on your artery walls when the heart is pumping blood out. The second number is diastolic which measures the pressure between heartbeats, while the heart is filling with blood.

• Normal – 120/80
• Pre-hypertension – 120 to 139 over 80 to 89
• Hypertension (Stage 1) – 140 to 159 over 90 to 99
• Hypertension (Stage 2) – 160 or higher over 100 to higher

Statistics show that about 1/3 of adults have high blood pressure or pre-hypertension and deaths from high blood pressure have dramatically increased in recent years.

You may ask yourself, “Why is my doctor so concerned because my blood pressure is a little bit high?” According to Dr. Jaswani, “The high blood pressure in and of itself isn’t the greatest concern. The biggest concern is that numerous studies have shown hypertension is a proven clinical risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.”

2. Cholesterol

“The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”
Cholesterol is a type of fat that is produced in the liver and can be found in foods which come from animal products. Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D (which is important for healthy bones), and bile (which helps your body use dietary fat). But as you have likely already heard there is “good” cholesterol (HDL) and “bad” cholesterol (LDL).

Regular wellness checkups are included under many insurance plans and depending on your risk factors, the doctor will likely test your blood for cholesterol as part of the standard tests. This is one of many good reasons to go for a checkup. But, if you want to check your cholesterol for yourself, without visiting a doctor’s office, you can visit one of two LabCare locations in Danville (201 South Main St or 159 Executive Dr, Suite K) and have a lipid profile completed for only $23 which includes testing for triglycerides. Make sure you don’t eat after 12AM the previous night before having your test done. If you are a do-it-yourself-er, kits are also available online, in drug stores, and at large retail stores for around $30. (online search phrase – “cholesterol test kit”). One of the benefits of doing it at LabCare is that a professional will handle the test for you, you’ll get results the same day (if you go in before 10AM), and if there are any issues, you have a local person to help you.

• Total cholesterol of 200 mg/dl or lower
• HDL (Good – H for “Healthy”) for 40 mg/dl or higher (50 mg/dl or higher for women)
• LDL (Bad – L for “Lousy”) of 130 mg/dl or lower (the target for some one with diabetes is 100 and depending on your risk factors, your doctor may set a different target)
• Triglycerides of less than 150 mg/dl

The numbers can change based on the state of health of the individual. According to Dr. Jaswani, “The more risk factors you have, the stricter the target becomes. So if you have high blood pressure or you smoke, then your target LDL becomes stricter. It’s important to set realistic targets so that you don’t get impatient with your progress.”

3. Waist Size

“The One Number You Think You Already Know”
Forty is an interesting number. It is the number of home runs an all-star baseball player hits. The age when life gets complicated. The number of yards in a dash. There are a lot of things that the number 40 represents. But the most important thing this number represents for a man is his waist size. If your waist is 40 inches or larger, it increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Don’t think you’re getting off easy by saying you wear size 34 pants. You must measure around your belly button and in most men, there is a big difference between the size of your waistband and the size of your waist around your belly button. If it’s greater than 40 inches, then you need to realize that this is a major warning sign.

For women, the magic number is 35. In people of Asian descent, the number is 36 for men and 32 for women.

4. Body Mass

Index (BMI)
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number that is designed to represent your overall weight in relation to your height. It’s time for algebra class.

BMI = ( Weight in Pounds / (Height in inches x Height in inches) ) x 703

That’s the formula. For example (175/(68×68))x703 = 26.6. Math hint: multiply your height in inches times itself first. (68×68=4624 in this example). Then divide your weight by the number you just got. (175/4624=.0378 in this example). Then multiply that number times 703. (.0378×703=26.6 in this example)

For adults 20 years and older:
• 18.5 is considered underweight.
• 18.5 to 24.9 is considered a normal weight.
• 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight.
• 30 or higher is considered obese.

If you have a large change in BMI, regardless of where it falls on the chart, it should be evaluated. People of Asian descent may be at risk with a lower BMI. A clinical diagnosis for obesity includes waist size and risk factors.

5. Blood Sugar and Hemoglobin A1c

For those with Type 2
Diabetes or who are
at high risk of
For people with type 2 diabetes, these are two additional numbers to which you should pay special attention.

• Normal – fasting blood sugar level is less than 100mg/dL or an A1c of less than 5.7%
• Prediabetes – fasting blood sugar level of 100 to 125 mg/dL or an A1c of 5.7% to 6.4%
• Probable Diabetes – fasting blood sugar level of 126 mg/dL or more or an A1c of 6.5% or higher and you’ve gotten these results two or more times.

Treating diabetes is about treating to targets based on an individual assessment. These numbers can fluctuate depending on the individual, and it’s important to work with a doctor who looks at the big picture. In patients with diabetes, doctors tend to be more aggressive on the rest of the important numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol, waist size, and BMI).

“Most men don’t realize that they need to be screened for these factors before they experience any symptoms at all. Men can avoid most large problems by being screened for these cardiovascular risk factors,” Dr. Jaswani says. “Men don’t like to go to the doctor unless there is a symptom that is really bothersome to them. But it’s important to get these yearly checkups and to be screened for these silent risk factors before it’s too late.”


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