Your Health by the Numbers

The most important numbers you should know regarding your health.

Want to be in the best health of your life? You’ll have to keep an eye on some key numbers. But with so many numbers to keep track of, you may be wondering which ones to really pay attention to. If you’re in fairly good health, you should know and monitor the following few easy-to-track numbers.

Weight and Height

Your body-mass index (BMI) may not be the most accurate determination of your overall health, but it does provide a good indication of whether or not you’re overweight. To figure out your BMI using pounds and inches, divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared. Multiply this answer by 703. For a BMI based on kilograms and meters, divide your weight in kilograms by your height squared. Healthy adults should have BMIs between 18.5 and 24.9. A higher BMI indicates you may be overweight or obese, and a lower BMI means you may be underweight.

Cholesterol

Despite having a perfect BMI, your body may not be the well-oiled health machine it could be. If your cholesterol is out of control, your body—even if it’s thin—may be quietly putting you in harm’s way. Unfortunately, you can’t figure out your cholesterol levels with a mathematical formula. It requires a trip to your physician. Ideally, your total cholesterol is no higher than 199 mg/dL, your low-density lipoprotein (bad) cholesterol shouldn’t exceed 130 mg/dL (70 mg/dL if you’re at high risk for heart disease), and your high-density lipoprotein (good) cholesterol should stay at 45 mg/dL or higher.

Blood Pressure

Equally as important to your health is the force with which blood presses against your blood vessels, which is measured as blood pressure. To find out your blood pressure, drop by a pharmacy. Most of them now offer free blood pressure screenings, and many allow you to perform the quick test yourself. For your blood pressure to be considered healthy, your blood pressure should be 120/80 mmHg or less. The top number, called your systolic blood pressure, indicates the pressure on your arteries during each heartbeat. The lower number, your diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure on your arteries as your heart rests. If either the top or bottom number gets any higher than 120/80, you’re at risk for high blood pressure, one of the leading risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

Target Heart Rate

To lower your blood pressure and cholesterol and get other great benefits from exercise, you’ll need to know how hard to work your heart. In order to do this, subtract your age in years from 220. This number is your maximum heart rate, the highest number of beats you can likely achieve in one minute of strenuous exercise. Take this number and multiply it by .75 and you’ll have your target heart rate. Once you have this number, get to the gym and start exercising. Take your pulse in the middle of your routine. If your heart is going slower than your target heart rate, push it a little harder. Heart going faster than your target? You may need to slow down a bit. If you have other health issues, consult an exercise professional or physician to determine your target heart rate.

Blood Sugar

When it comes to blood sugar (glucose), you’ve got to hit the target. Have blood pressure that’s too high and it could spell trouble. Have blood pressure that’s too low and you’re on the same dangerous path. A normal range for your blood sugar if you’ve not eaten recently is between 70 and 100 mg/dL. If you recently ate, expect it to spike as high as 140 mg/dL, but no higher. In the event your blood sugar is out of these boundaries, you may have diabetes. If your blood sugar is on either edge of the scale, take steps to improve your blood glucose levels and your health.

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