5 health numbers everyone should know


Want to take charge of your health? Get to know these five barometers of wellness:

1. BLOOD PRESSURE: less than 120/80

What it is: Measures the pressure of blood flowing through your arteries. “Think of it as a garden hose,” said Tasha Gastony, a physician’s assistant at the Park Nicollet Clinic in Eagan. “The higher the pressure, the more risk there [is for] damage to that blood vessel and damage to the organs that those vessels feed.”

Why it’s important: People with high blood pressure often don’t feel any symptoms. Untreated high blood pressure, over time, greatly increases the chances of having a stroke, heart disease or kidney failure.

2. TOTAL CHOLESTEROL: below 200 mg/dL

What it is: This number is a combination of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and other fats in your blood.

Why it’s important: If there’s too much cholesterol in your blood, it keeps circulating and that bad cholesterol can eventually enter the blood vessel walls. A buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries can block blood flow.

3. FASTING BLOOD SUGAR: less than 100 mg/dL

What it is: Tells you what the sugar content is in your blood.

Why it’s important: Helps screen for diabetes.

4. BMI: less than 25

What it is: Stands for body mass index. It’s a formula that takes your mass (in kilograms), divided by height (in meters squared). It helps determine if you’re at a normal weight, underweight, overweight or obese.

Why it’s important: People who are overweight or obese are at a much higher risk for health problems such as high blood pressure, coronary vascular disease, diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea and arthritis. A BMI that’s under 18.5 is considered underweight, and might indicate an eating disorder.

5. WAIST SIZE: less than 35 inches (women); less than 40 inches (men).

What it is: The circumference around your belly — the area above your hipbone and below your ribcage.

Why it’s important: People with large waistlines have too much abdominal fat, putting them at a high risk for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary vascular disease.