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Your Health Numbers

By Patrice Powers-Barker, OSU Extension, Lucas County
The Truth Contributor

Keeping track of personal health numbers like blood pressure, blood sugar, total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and body mass index (BMI) can provide a picture of your health status as well as your risk for certain diseases or conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.  What do these numbers mean and how can your diet help? The following information is from the Centers for Disease Control.


Blood Pressure

What is it? The force of blood pushing against artery walls.

Why is it important? High blood pressure, also called hypertension, indicates excess force and stress on artery walls, which could lead to damage.

What does it mean? Two numbers are recorded when measuring blood pressure. The top number, systolic pressure, refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart contracts and pumps blood through the body. The bottom number, diastolic pressure, refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart is at rest and filling with blood. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute guidelines define normal blood pressure as less than 120/80.


Blood Glucose also called Blood Sugar  

What is it? The amount of glucose, a type of sugar, in the blood.

Why is it important? Blood sugar levels indicate risk for diabetes.

What does it mean? A normal blood glucose level while fasting is less than 100 mg/dl. A fasting blood glucose level of 100-126 mg/dl may indicate prediabetes. A fasting blood glucose level greater than 126 mg/dl may be used to diagnose diabetes.


Body Mass Index (BMI)

What is it? BMI is a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have an adult BMI Calculator on their website that you can use to find your BMI by plugging in your height (in feet and inches) and weight (in pounds) or it can be computed for you at your doctor’s office.

Why is it important? A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness and increased risk of health problems.

What does it mean? A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 indicates normal (i.e. healthy) weight. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 indicates overweight, and a BMI at or above 30 is considered obese.


Cholesterol - Total Cholesterol and HDL (good) Cholesterol

What is it? A waxy substance that can be found in all parts of your body.

Why is it important? High cholesterol is a significant risk factor in heart disease. Cholesterol build-up can cause plaque and blockages to form in arteries. 

What does it mean? Up to four types of cholesterol may be recorded when cholesterol is measured: LDL (“Bad” Cholesterol), HDL (“Good” Cholesterol), Triglycerides and Total Cholesterol.

In general, ideal levels are:

·         LDL – less than 100 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter)

·         HDL – greater than 40 mg/dl for men, greater than 50 mg/dL for women

·         Triglycerides – less than 150 mg/dL

·         Total cholesterol – less than 200 mg/dL

Knowing these very important numbers is an important step to a healthier lifestyle. Be sure to ask your health care provider what tests you need and how often. If your numbers are too high or too low, he/she can make recommendations to help you get them to a healthier range.

How to manage numbers with diet?

Ask your health care team for advice on food decisions for your specific numbers. The following general guidelines are usually helpful for managing the different numbers:

·         Eat a variety of healthy foods every day.

·         Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, one quarter of the plate with lean protein and the other quarter of the plate with whole grains. Include fat-free and low-fat milk.

·         Eat less fat and avoid fried foods. Choose foods that are baked, broiled, grilled, boiled, or steamed.

·         Eat less sugar. Enjoy the sweetness of fruit (without added sugar) and limit foods like drinks and desserts with added sugar.

·         Eat less salt.

·         Eat smaller portions of food.

·         Physical activity and weight loss (if BMI is too high) can have a great impact on your numbers.

Upcoming community events for healthy living and eating: OSU Extension, Lucas County is partnering with the Toledo Lucas County Public Library to offer a one hour “Slow Cooking for All Seasons” at different branches on different dates. Join us on either Tuesday February 20th at 3pm at Toledo Heights Library, Thursday March 14th at 6:30pm at Washington Branch Library or Tuesday April 10th at 6:30pm at Point Place Library.

The annual Toledo GROWs Seed Swap is Saturday February 24th from 12pm-3pm at Scott High School, 2400 Collingwood Blvd, Toledo. Admission is Free and each attendee receives 5 free seed packets. Featuring garden displays, workshops, food, music and children’s activities. OSU Extension will be there with the Lucas County Blender Bike.


Copyright © 2018 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/16/18 14:12:12 -0700.

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