Knowing your numbers for a longer healthier life

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[April 18, 2016]  Nurse Practitioner, Andrea Sheley said blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and Body Mass Index are numbers people should know to be aware of their health status Knowing the numbers can help reduce risks of serious health problems, prevent progression to full blown disease, and help people manage the conditions.

Sheley said normal blood pressures are 120/80 or lower. When numbers consistently run at least 140/90, high blood pressure is diagnosed. Risks of uncontrolled high blood pressure include heart attack, stroke, hardening of the arteries, aneurysms, and heart failure. She recommends yearly screening for people with high blood pressure.

Sheley said cholesterol is naturally found in our body, but our food brings in extra cholesterol. Cholesterol includes High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL) or good cholesterol; Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL) or bad cholesterol; and triglycerides or fats found in the body used for energy.

Sheley said the total cholesterol number should be 200 or less with HDL levels of 60 or above (higher is better for this one), and LDL levels and triglyceride levels of 70 or below. High cholesterol can cause heart attack, stroke, and narrowing of the arteries outside your heart. Sheley said cholesterol should be checked in people 45 or older every five years when it is in a normal range and more frequently when the numbers are high.

Sheley said blood sugar, or glucose, is made from foods people eat and is the body's main source of energy. Normal levels are 70-100, impaired glucose levels are 100-125, and high, or diabetic, levels are 126 or over. Risks of high sugar levels are heart problems, nerve damage, loss of vision, and kidney problems.

People between 40 and 70 should have blood sugar levels checked every three years if the levels are normal and more often if they are higher.

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Sheley said the Body Mass Index (BMI) is a calculation of the body mass using individual height and weight measures, but it does not measure body fat directly. She said someone with a lot of muscle mass may have a high BMI, but lower body fat.

A normal BMI is 24.9 or less. Someone with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight, and someone whose numbers are higher than 30 is considered obese.

Sheley said a high BMI can cause heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes, osteoarthritis, gallstones, and even certain types of cancer. There is no recommended screening interval, but interventions are recommended for people with a BMI of 30 or more.

Sheley ended the session by sharing how to achieve optimal numbers:

  • Exercise at least 30 minutes most days
  • Avoid smoking
  • Have regular preventative health exams
  • Monitor diet by eating a lot of fruits and vegetables.

[Angela Reiners]

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