Do you know your numbers? We’re not talking about your emergency contact phone numbers or for the details of your personal budget. We’re talking about the numbers that determine your risk for heart disease, stroke and other heart-related conditions.
Knowing your numbers for cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and Body Mass Index (BMI) are the best means of prevention when it comes to overall heart health. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), monitoring these numbers allows you and your Provider to determine your risk for developing Cardiovascular Disease by Atherosclerosis, among other diseases — even for individuals who may not be experiencing common symptoms.
“I believe in proactive prevention, screening and preventative medicine. The old cliché, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’ really holds its weight when talking about health — especially heart health,” said Kelli Bitner, Family Nurse Practitioner at Prowers Medical Center. “It is best for people to identify problems early through screening tests before they possibly develop a disease that can cause complications later on in life.”
The AHA reports that individuals with prediabetes typically do not show symptoms, and someone with diabetes could have a severe condition before showing any warning signs. Moreover, those with high cholesterol or high blood pressure simply may not know they have these conditions unless they get regularly tested.
“If people know where they stand with their numbers, then they know if they need to change their diet, if they need to exercise and lose some weight, or if they need to see their Provider to get on medication to help lower their numbers,” Bitner explained.
The Four Numbers to Know
Blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and BMI are the four numbers most recommended to know by Providers across the country.
Blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is known as a silent disease, which means symptoms oftentimes aren’t obvious. Since blood pressure tends to rise as we get older, it can increase our risks of heart disease, stroke and other issues, which is why it’s so important to know where we stand.
Cholesterol is a major cause of coronary heart disease, according to the Cleveland Clinic, and it can only be detected by a blood test. Cholesterol buildup and arterial blockages in your body contribute to high cholesterol numbers, which can lead to chest pain, heart attack or stroke.
Knowing your blood sugar, or fasting glucose, numbers also helps to lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. When your body doesn’t respond to insulin, or can’t make insulin, glucose buildup in your blood can damage blood vessels and nerves, leading to these heart-related problems.
Using your height and weight, BMI measures your body fat, which in result determines your risk for heart disease, stroke, hypertension and diabetes.
According to the AHA, ideal numbers for most adults are:
- Blood Pressure: 120/80 mm Hg
- BMI: 25 kg/m2
- Blood Sugar: 100 mg/dL
- Total Cholesterol: Varies by person — talk to your Provider about how your numbers impact your cholesterol and overall risk.
Not sure what any of these numbers mean? That’s where your Provider can really help explain where you are in comparison to these numbers, and if you’re in a good healthy spot, or if there’s room for improvement.
Tracking Your Numbers
If you are not meeting these numbers, your Provider will work with you on a personalized plan to improve your overall health.
“Lifestyle modifications are the number one treatment for most cardiovascular-related conditions,” Bitner said.
Most often, treatment plans include incorporation of regular exercise, weight loss, smoking cessation, eating a low-fat diet and increasing vegetable and protein intake.
One of the best resources to learn your numbers, Bitner said, is the Health Fair hosted every year by Prowers Medical Center. This year’s Health Fair will be held from 7-11 a.m. May 12 through 14, and patients can receive several screening tests, including tests to learn about your heart numbers, for a reduced price of $25.
“Attending the Health Fair every spring is an excellent way to keep track of these important numbers,” Bitner said. “I advise all of my adult patients to go to the Health Fair annually. Not only does the Health Fair include multiple costly tests for a flat fee; it also offers several other free screening tests for early identification of various conditions.”
For those who can’t make the Health Fair this year, it’s just as easy to schedule an appointment with any of the Providers at Prowers Medical Center who can order the same tests. Since they are preventative, Bitner said most insurances cover these types of screening tests.
“It’s vital to have these tests done in order to establish a baseline,” Bitner concluded. “This allows for the patient and Provider to have a reference point for future monitoring.”
For more information about this year’s Health Fair, go to prowersmedical.com/health-fair. To schedule an appointment with a Primary Care Provider, call 719-336-6767.