Prevention Series: Know Your Health Numbers

Knowledge is power! Understanding your health numbers can help you know where you stand with your health and inform changes that can be incorporated on your health journey.

On Health Happens, our weekly Facebook Live show, we talked with Annie Caldwell, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Diabetes about the importance of knowing your health numbers and how it can help you along your preventive health journey. Click here to watch the full episode.

Know Your Numbers

It all comes down to numbers, when we go to the doctor, we hear a lot of numbers and many of us don’t know exactly what those mean.

Typically, when you go to the doctor you get your basic vitals checked, like height and weight, blood pressure, and from your blood draw at an annual preventative care visit, or if you visit the 9health fair.

These numbers are important for understanding your risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic diseases – but more importantly, you have a chance to improve your numbers with lifestyle modifications to diet, physical activity, and sedentary behavior. This can ultimately reduce your risk of developing chronic disease.

Important Numbers to Know

Blood Pressure – the pressure of the blood in the circulatory system, it tells us how hard your heart has to beat in order to get blood circulated through your body, so it tells us about the force and rate of the heartbeat and the diameter and elasticity of the arterial walls.

There are two numbers, systolic and diastolic, that help you interpret a blood pressure reading.

  • Normal systolic below 120 and diastolic <80
  • If systolic consistently higher than 120 its is considered elevated
  • stage 1hypertension when systolic bp is below 130-139 Or diastolic is below 80-89

These numbers can be affected by physical activity, time of day and anxiety; therefore, it should be measured consistently and regularly. if its something you’re concerned about, try to take your blood pressure in a comfortable setting, at the same time of day and preferably not after exercise.

Body Mass Index (BMI) – measures body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women.

  • The ratio of weight to height kg/cm2 (BMI calculator)
  • BMI of 20-25 normal 26-30 overweight, >30 obese

Blood Sugar or Hemoglobin A1C – a stable glycoprotein formed when glucose binds to hemoglobin A in the blood. Blood sugar was assessed by measuring the amount of hemoglobin A1c in the participants’ blood, a test that looks for hemoglobin with sugar attached to it.

“Measured in the blood and it tells us a cumulative measure over the past 3 months, Hemogliboin A1c gives us a broader snapshot of your blood glucose levels – part of a normal lipid panel,” stated Campbell.

  • The normal range for Blood Sugar or Hemoglobin A1c Is 4.0-5.6% 
  • 5.7% or higher- at-risk for-diabetes

Cholesterol – Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all the cells in your body. Your body needs some cholesterol to build cell walls, and synthesize hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods.

  • Lipid panel, blood draw – processed very quickly in the lab.
  • LDL – low-density lipoprotein- “bad” cholesterol (<100)
  • HDL – high-density lipoprotein -good- cholesterol (>60)
  • Triglycerides – made up of 3 fatty acids and glycerol – the ideal range is <150
    • high concentrations increase the risk of stroke

Additional Helpful Tips

Need Clarification?

Share any concerns you have with your doctor and ask if they are concerned and what you can do to change your numbers.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

  • Prepare questions ahead of time and write them down.
  • Write down these normal ranges so you have them as a reference – come with results online
  • If you don’t understand what the doctor tells you, be sure to keep asking questions until you do, Otherwise the dr. assumes you understand.
  • Bring someone with you- if you have anxiety about going to the dr. it can help to have another set of ears and calmer brain to help you process all the information.

Join us every Tuesday on Facebook for our weekly Facebook Live show Health Happens. *Show times are subject to change. Check Facebook for the latest times.

9Health is a 501c-3 community non-profit empowering people to put health in their own hands by providing tools such as preventive health screenings, evidence-based, objective health education and eTools and resources for every day in your health journey.