Mind and Body

Know your numbers: Important tests to keep your heart healthy

Doctors and researchers have amazing knowledge about the human body in general. But all that knowledge doesn’t do me any good if the doctor can’t apply it to my personal situation.

An important part of solving my health issues has been to have tests done and to compare the results to my previous tests.  This allows my doctors to see if things are getting better or worse.  When you first have a test done, especially at an early age when you are healthy, it gives your doctor a baseline reading of how your body functions at its best.  That information will become even more important as you get older and things start to change.  Your doctor can learn all sorts of important things by comparing later results to the baseline test.

As women, we know we need to have PAP smears and mammograms to check for cancer.  It’s smart to get these tests done when recommended so we can know whether there is something we need to deal with or not.  

But don’t stop there. The leading killer of women is heart disease, meaning it’s important to get the tests that will help you take care of your heart.  I’m talking about blood tests for cholesterol – HDL which is the good cholesterol, LDL which is the bad one, and triglycerides.   And follow up by getting your cholesterol numbers so you can figure out what they mean.  Don’t be afraid of your numbers!

With HDL, higher is definitely better.  LDL is the opposite so you want that one to stay low, along with your triglycerides.  Your doctor can tell you if your numbers are in a good range, or you can look it up online.   The American Heart Association website has a great explanation of what all the numbers mean.

I also think it’s important to have a baseline treadmill test as well as an echocardiogram.  The treadmill gives the doctor an important reference point for when your heart is really working, in case you start to have problems later in life.  The same is true with the echocardiogram – your doctor just puts some stickers on your chest, hooks up the wires, and the machine gets a reading of how your heart is beating.  It’s a great way to make sure your heart is firing the way it should be.

If you’re having blood drawn, checking your sugar levels should be standard procedure.  The same is true of your hormones.  All the systems in your body are connected by your hormones, including the insulin that controls your sugar levels.  So if one thing starts to go out of balance, it can cause a ripple effect that can cause problems in all other parts of your body.  

While it’s important to get your baseline levels tested, they won’t do any good if you don’t know what your early readings were.   Your test results stay in your chart as long as you stay at the same doctor. But if you move, change doctors, or have multiple doctors for different kinds of care, they may not all have access to every one of your records. I like to keep a notebook with copies of all my test results.  That way, when I get a new test done, I have the old one right there in the book so I can see how my numbers are doing.  If you don’t like a notebook, make a file on your computer, or just save your numbers as a note in your phone.  Whatever works for you is great as long as you know what your numbers are and what they mean.

And don’t forget that it isn’t enough to know your numbers.  If some of them are off target, you need to do something to fix them.  Then give yourself some time to adjust those numbers.  Give yourself a goal.  Maybe the goal is to exercise more or eat a little differently.  Or maybe you’ll decide you need to take medication. Think about what is going to work for you and what is going to be good for you.  Then you need to follow through.  Whatever method you chose, it won’t work if you don’t actually do it.  Make the changes you need to make to take control of your own health.

For me, that’s the bottom line: whether its cholesterol, your heart, or some other health issue, listen to your body.  Pay attention to what your body is telling you.  Quit putting your health into someone else’s hands.  Stand up and own it yourself.

Michelle King Robson (pronounced robe-son) is one of the nation's leading women's health and wellness advocates. She is the Founder, Chairperson and CEO of EmpowHER, one of the fastest-growing and largest social health companies dedicated exclusively to women's health and wellness.  In 2011 EmpowHER reached more than 60 million women onsite and through syndication expects to reach more than 250 million in 2012.

Michelle King Robson (pronounced robe-son) is one of the nation's leading women's health and wellness advocates. She is the Founder, Chairperson and CEO of EmpowHER, one of the fastest-growing and largest social health companies dedicated exclusively to women's health and wellness.  In 2011 EmpowHER reached more than 60 million women onsite and through syndication expects to reach more than 250 million in 2012.