4 health numbers you should know

Key health metrics speak volumes about our health and potential for future risk.

What’s in a number? When it comes to our bodies, a lot of information about our current health and risk of developing chronic conditions can be surmised. While there are countless statistics you can measure and track, here are four key numbers you should know and understand.

1. Blood pressure

This key metric measures the pressure of the blood in the arteries as it is pumped around the body by the heart. Blood pressure can change to meet our body’s needs, influenced by factors including breathing, exercise, sleep and emotional state.

Blood pressure is usually measured by wrapping an inflatable cuff around your upper arm while in a seated, relaxed position. The reading will give you two figures, your systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Your systolic blood pressure refers to the pressure in the arteries as the heart pumps out blood and the diastolic is the pressure as the heart relaxes before the next beat.

There is no normal reading for your blood pressure and as it can change, it is important to measure it regularly for noticeable differences. The guide below has been provided by the Heart Foundation.

Low blood pressure – below 90/60

Normal blood pressure – between 90/60 and 120/80

High – normal blood pressure – between 120/80 and 140/90

High blood pressure – equal or more than 140/90

Very high blood pressure – equal or more than 180/110

2. Waist measurement

Our waist measurement reflects much more than our clothing size. It helps to determine the level of our internal fat deposits, which can coat the kidneys, heart, liver and pancreas, and increase the risk of chronic disease.

For most people, a waist measurement of greater than 94 cm for men or 80 cm for women may indicate a presence of internal fat deposits.

When taking your waist measurement, be sure to:

  • Place the tape measure directly on your skin, or over a light layer of clothing
  • Measure your waist horizontally halfway between your lowest rib and the top of your hipbone
  • Relax and breathe out when taking your measurement
  • Hold the tape measure comfortably against your skin without tightening it
  • For more information visit the Heart Foundation.

3. Blood cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of fat that plays a critical role in the body’s metabolic process. There are two types of cholesterol – HDL, the ‘good’ cholesterol, and LDL, the ‘bad’ cholesterol. While we need cholesterol for a number of functions including the production of hormones, bile and vitamin D, our liver and cells produce a lot of it on its own so it’s best to avoid foods high in cholesterol (and saturated fat).

To maintain healthy cholesterol levels, limit foods high in saturated fats, including processed meats, deep-fried foods, cakes and pastries. It is also important to ensure you have a regular exercise routine and avoid smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and ensure your weight remains in a healthy range.

4. Blood sugar

Your blood sugar is a reading of the amount of glucose present in your blood. This level is naturally regulated and fluctuates throughout the day. Most simply, glucose provides energy for our cells.

A healthy blood glucose level is about 4 to 6 mmgl/L during a fasting period. Maintaining a healthy blood glucose level is one of our best defences against developing complications from diabetes.

Blood sugar levels can be easily tested yourself and your levels should always be recorded so you and your medical practitioner can work out a plan for monitoring and maintaining a healthy range.

For more information on diabetes and blood sugar visit Diabetes Australia.

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