Part of being healthy is being aware of the numbers most important to your health. These include numbers for your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and body weight. It is especially important to be aware of target numbers associated with any chronic diseases for which you are at greater risk due to family history, race/ethnicity, age, sex, etc.
To drive home the point, it's not enough to know whether your health-related numbers are "good" or "normal" or "bad" or "at risk", you need to know the actual numbers. Then, take it a step further by knowing the target numbers for these parameters. Why? A perfect example is a patient who every year for the last 10 years has had good cholesterol. Then one day his doctor tells him his cholesterol is too high. Little did he know that his cholesterol had been slowly climbing over several years. True, each year his cholesterol was in the "healthy range," but had he known it was on the rise perhaps he would have been encouraged to make some lifestyle changes to stop the trend. We tend to take action when we see the benefit of doing so. A key to prevention is knowing your numbers!
Note_ Different professional groups vary slightly in their recommendations. Numbers listed below are specific to diabetes care, but are also good targets (if not the exact same target numbers) for cardiovascular health and overall chronic disease prevention. Keep this list as a reference for your most important numbers!
Hemoglobin A1C-This number indicates your average blood sugar over a 2-3 month period.
- Keep this below 7%.
- A good target is <130/80.
- Total Cholesterol <200, and
- LDL < 100 ("bad cholesterol" so keep it low), and
- HDL >40 for men, >50 for women ("good cholesterol" so keep it high)
Body Mass Index (BMI)- Though there is some math involved, this is essentially a measure of your weight for height.
- The "normal" range for this is 18.5-24.9
Blood glucose- an indicator for pancreas and liver function in regulating how much glucose stays in your bloodstream.
Fasting glucose should be under 100. A value above that indicates pre-diabetes, and above 126 indicates full blown diabetes. This test should be verified with a second reading on another day.
Oral glucose tolerance test- under 140 to prevent pre-diabetes, under 200 to ward off diabetes
Random blood glucose- might be checked if you experience symptoms of high blood sugar and should be under 200...this test should be verified with a second result.
Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of www.Skinnyandthecity.com. She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto www.FFactorDiet.com.
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.