How do you know how healthy you really are?
Well, by knowing your numbers.
That means regularly checking certain stats to see if they are still in range or too high or too low. This
means you can do something about them before they start to have an impact on your health.
Set yourself a ‘know your numbers’ challenge during this week so that you can keep track of where you are, take action and, if necessary, see your GP.
Of course, a healthier lifestyle will keep these numbers in normal range.
DAY 1 – BLOOD PRESSURE
Most of you will have had your blood pressure tested and know that 120/80 (or 120 over 80) is a normal score. But what does it mean and what exactly is being measured when that cuff tightens around your arm?
What is blood pressure measuring?
The first or top number is your systolic blood pressure. This is the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats forcing blood around the body. The second or bottom number is your diastolic blood pressure. This is the lowest level your blood pressure reaches as your heart relaxes between beats.
Why get it checked?
High blood pressure usually has no symptoms. So much so that the first sign could be a heart attack or stroke. It can cause kidney disease, dementia, and other illnesses.
Here are some of the reasons why you should check your blood pressure every year:
- 1 in 2 strokes and heart attacks are the result of high blood pressure.
- 1 in 3 adults in the UK have high blood pressure.
- 1 in 9 adults has high blood pressure but doesn’t know it.
- 1 in 2 adults with high blood pressure don’t know they have it or aren’t receiving treatment.
- 6 million people in the UK alone have high blood pressure and don’t know it.
- £2.1 billion – is how much high blood pressure costs the NHS every year.
Get your blood pressure checked at your doctor’s surgery or buy yourself a home monitor. If you do buy one, make sure you get one that is digital and clinically approved.
What do the readings mean?
- 90/60 or less means you have low blood pressure.
- More than 90/60 and less than 120/80 means your blood pressure is in the healthy range.
- More than 120/80 and less than 140/90 means it is a little higher than it should be and you should
try and lower it by making healthy changes to your lifestyle.
- 140/90 or higher over a number of weeks means you may have high blood pressure and should
check in with your GP for further advice.
DAY 2 – CHOLESTEROL
When did you have your cholesterol last tested?
Too much cholesterol can clog up your arteries and lead to future health problems.
It doesn’t matter how old you are or how healthy you feel. It’s definitely worth getting it checked because quite often there are no symptoms until a heart attack or stroke. It can also be caused by your genes as well as your lifestyle.
What is cholesterol and what does it do?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance made in the liver and we do need it, but not too much of it. It’s found in the membrane of all the cells in the body and is used to make vitamin D and certain hormones to keep your bones, teeth and muscles healthy. It’s also used to make bile which helps digest fats you’ve consumed.
Cholesterol is carried around in our blood by substances call lipoproteins. There are two different types.
These are LDL ‘low density lipoprotein’ and ‘HDL high density lipoprotein’. LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to cells that need it, and HDL does the opposite and carries cholesterol from the cells back to the liver to be broken down or excreted. If there is too much LDL cholesterol in your blood, this is known as ‘bad cholesterol’ – this is what builds up in your arteries.
There are other fats in the blood which makes up your cholesterol result called Triglycerides. They store unused calories and provide the body with energy. They can also increase your risk of heart disease if the levels are too high.
How do you test cholesterol?
It is measured by having a blood test. This can either be a finger prick test or small sample taken from your arm. You can get it done at your GP surgery, at some pharmacies, or you can try a home kit.
I recommend Thriva or Medichecks.
What is a healthy range?
- Total cholesterol 5 or below
- HDL (good cholesterol) 1 or above
- LDL (bad cholesterol) 3 or below
- Non-HDL (bad cholesterol) 4 or below
- Triglycerides 2.3 or below
DAY 3 – BLOOD SUGAR
How can you find out what your diabetes risk is? You simply take a blood test called HbA1c.
What is HbA1c?
There are oxygen carrying proteins in red blood cells called haemoglobin. These become bonded with glucose in the blood. This test can measure your average blood sugar levels in the body over the past three months which can give you an indication of whether you are at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease.
How do you get tested?
You can get it done at your GP surgery, at some pharmacies or you can try a home kit.
Again, I recommend Thriva or Medichecks.
What do the results mean?
- Below 42 mmol/mol (6.0%) – non-diabetic
- 42 – 47 mmol/mol (6.0 – 6.4%) – pre-diabetic
- 48 mmol/mol (6.5%) or over – diabetic
DAY 4 – WEIGHT
Some of you will baulk at the idea of having to weigh yourself, especially if you’ve had issues around weight, like I did in the past. I now have learnt to have a healthy relationship with my weight as I know what works to maintain it after years of being overweight.
The purpose of this exercise is to just use weight as a benchmark, especially if your other metrics are higher than they should be and decide if you need to action by eating healthier.
Get yourself a set of digital bathroom scales that provide you with additional metrics such as body fat %, muscle weight, bone density, hydration %, visceral fat, and metabolic/fitness age. I personally have a set of these Tanita scales.
DAY 5 – WAIST TO HEIGHT RATIO VS BMI
Waist to Height Ratio determines your distribution of body fat. It’s an indicator of early health risk for obesity, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
Your waist should be less than half your height.
For example, if someone’s height is 1.6m (160cm) and their waist is 80cm, their Waist to Height Ratio is exactly half. That is healthy.
If the waist measurement is more than half, then health risks are increased and it’s worth checking your other stats to see what action you may need to take.
If any of the stats are higher than they should be then following a healthier lifestyle will be bring them into the healthy range. A GP may recommend medication to help bring the stats down. But if you can do it by cutting down on alcohol, looking after your stress levels, eating a healthier diet, being more active, and getting more restorative sleep over a period of a few months then you will probably not need medication.
I personally don’t like BMI (Body Mass Index). And this is why…
BMI is still used by the medical profession (and the health insurance industry) as a means of determining if your weight is healthy. It’s calculated by weight divided by height squared.
BMI unfortunately doesn’t take into account a person’s build – the size of their skeletal frame or the
amount of fat or muscle they have which can make the result inaccurate.
By all means measure it if you want to…
Published on: September 21, 2021