Know Your Numbers
Posted 10/18/2017 by UHBlog
While there are many numbers that are important in your life – like your Social Security, phone or bank PINs – you may not know the numbers that are important to your life.
These are your biometric health screening numbers, which can indicate whether you’re at risk for or might have chronic conditions, such as undetected pre-diabetes, high cholesterol and/or hypertension.
“The most important reason to know these numbers is because they all screen for conditions that are treatable – and sometimes preventable – and can help prevent progression to more serious diseases,” says internal medicine specialist Gregory Greene, DO. “Some of the big things we look at are your blood pressure (BP), blood glucose, cholesterol and body mass index (BMI).”
Here is the information you can learn from these numbers during your annual doctor’s visit:
- Blood pressure. The systolic, or higher number, reflects the pressure the blood vessels are under while the heart is actively pumping. Diastolic is the pressure during the resting part of the cycle.
Generally speaking, you want your BP to be less than 140/90. Otherwise, you run the risk of developing high blood pressure, a “silent killer” that affects one out of every three adults over age 20.
“High blood pressure can lead to stroke, coronary heart disease and heart failure, thickening of the walls of the heart (myocardial hypertrophy), kidney problems and an outpouching in blood vessels called aneurysms that can result in death,” Dr. Greene says. “Hypertension is really a broad-reaching disease and definitely something you want to stay on top of.”
- Blood glucose level. This is a test for diabetes that is taken after fasting for at least eight hours. The amount of sugar (glucose) in your blood at a given time is an indicator of whether you’re in the normal range, or if you have prediabetes or diabetes. Prediabetes is a condition with no clear symptoms, which if left untreated, can often lead to diabetes within five years.
Additionally, there is another test that is often used to measure the amount of glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) in your blood. An HbA1c test shows your average blood sugar over a three-month period, and provides results that are broken down into normal (<5.7 percent), prediabetes (5.7 to 6.4 percent) and diabetes (>6.5 percent).
- Blood cholesterol. This measures your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol and your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, known as “good” cholesterol. If your cholesterol, especially the LDL cholesterol, is high, it can contribute to heart disease.
“Current prevention planning uses the cholesterol readings as a part of calculating another important number, your atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) risk score. This tells us the likelihood if you will have an event like a heart attack or stroke over the next 10 years,” he says. “The algorithm we use includes whether you have diabetes, high blood pressure, a smoking history, as well as your LDL, when making treatment decisions. What treatments are used will be the result of conversations between you and your healthcare team.”
- Body mass index (BMI). When talking about obesity, there are two numbers you should know: your BMI and waist circumference. With BMI, the higher the number is, the more likely you are to have high body fat.
BMI is broken down into these numbers:
Waist circumference is another number on your list to know. It's a measure of abdominal obesity. Typically, you should be concerned if this number is over 40 inches in men or 35 inches in women.
- Normal (less than 25)
- Overweight (25–30)
- Obese (30-35)
- Class II obesity (35-40)
- Class III obesity (>40)
“All of these numbers are important for you to know and talk to your doctor about if they’re high,” Dr. Greene says. “Every number we have talked about – high cholesterol, high blood pressure, the blood sugar and BMI – all can lead to many different diseases affecting your heart, brain, kidneys and other areas of the body. Lowering them can help stop these illnesses as well.”
Gregory Greene, DO is an internal medicine specialist at University Hospitals Westlake Internal Medicine. You can request an appointment with Dr. Greene or any doctor online.