What do the numbers you get after your annual physical mean? And why should you care? Let’s take a look:
Your waist circumference is the distance around your waist measured at the point between the top of your hipbone and your bottom rib. This point is usually just below your navel. This number is important because excess abdominal fat indicates a higher risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A number above 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men signals an elevated risk for disease.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the vessels. The top number (systolic) measures pressure as your heart beats. The diastolic, or bottom, number measures pressure as your heart relaxes. A reading above 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) shows a greater risk for heart disease, kidney disease and stroke.
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance made by your body and found in animal food products. High levels leave deposits on your blood vessel walls and increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. A number below 200 milligrams per deciliter or mg/dL is considered ideal. In order to find your cholesterol, you need a lipid profile. This blood test will give you your cholesterol, HDL, LDL and triglyceride readings.
Low-density lipoprotein or LDL is often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol. LDL is a unit of proteins and fats that carries cholesterol in the body. High levels, indicated by a number over 160 mg/dL, cause a buildup in the blood vessels. An important note with LDL is that healthy levels depend upon your heart disease risk. If you are at a low risk for heart disease, 160 mg/dL is acceptable. People at an intermediate risk for heart disease are considered ok with a reading of 130 mg/dL or less. If you are at high risk for heart disease, most physicians would desire a number below 100 mg/dL.
High-density lipoprotein or HDL can be thought of as “happy” cholesterol, because the higher the number, the better. Just like LDL, HDL is a unit of proteins and fats that carries cholesterol. However, HDL carries cholesterol to the liver, so it can be removed from the body. A number equal to or greater than 50 mg/dL will make your doctor very happy.
Your doc may not be so happy if you have high levels of Triglycerides. Too much of this fat (over 150 mg/dL) puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke.
Low levels of glucose (sugar) in your blood are also an indicator of good health. A fasting glucose level of less than 100 mg/dL is considered normal. High levels indicate diabetes.