Know Your Numbers to Know Your Health
If you’re like most people, you probably see your primary care physician once every year or two for a check-up.
As part of that check-up, your PCP likely checks your weight and your blood pressure, and then orders some routine lab tests. Blood tests are common.
A few days later, some numbers are relayed to you via phone or an online chart.
But what do those numbers mean? There’s a good chance that never gets explained to you.
Here are some basic health metrics everyone should know, and why they’re important:
Weight, BMI, and Body Composition
Often the first thing you do at the doctor’s office is step on a scale.
But…the most important number isn’t necessarily your weight. Body mass index (BMI) and an analysis of body composition are also meaningful.
BMI is calculated by taking your weight (in kilograms) divided by your height in meters squared. (Don’t worry about crunching those number. The internet is full of BMI charts and calculators if want to see what yours is.)
Here’s what BMI calculations generally mean:
- BMI < 18.5 = underweight
- BMI 18.5 – 24.9 = normal weight
- BMI 25 – 29.9 = overweight
- BMI > 30 = obese
People who are overweight or obese are more likely to suffer from health issues like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, and they can be at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke.
Keep in mind, however, that BMI is not the end-all be-all when it comes to evaluating weight. This is because BMI does not take body composition into consideration. For example, a person with a lot of muscle mass but very low body fat can have a high BMI calculation and still be at an acceptable weight. So…it’s not always best to rely on BMI alone. For a deeper dive, have your body composition analyzed at your local gym.
After being weighed, your PCP will likely check your blood pressure. This includes a systolic reading (the top number) and a diastolic reading (the bottom number).
For most healthy adults, your blood pressure should be less than 120/80. Depending on the guidelines that are followed, your PCP may consider your blood pressure to be elevated if it’s above 130/80 or 140/90.
High blood pressure isn’t something to be ignored. It increases heart attack and stroke risk, and over time can damage otherwise healthy tissue, particularly in the brain.
Your doctor may also test your blood sugar levels, especially if you are overweight or have any other risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
Normal fasting glucose levels range from 72-100 mg per deciliter of blood.
Another test your PCP may order to screen for diabetes is called Hemoglobin A1c. You want this number to be less than 5.7.
Hematocrit, RBC, and Hemoglobin
Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body. Your PCP can evaluate your red blood cell levels in three primary ways:
- Hematocrit—this is the percentage of your blood volume occupied by red blood cells. Healthy hematocrit is typically between 35% and 45% for women, and between 38% and 50% for men.
- RBC (red blood cell count)—this is the actual number of red blood cells per unit of blood. Normal levels are around 4.35-5.65 trillion cells/liter for men and 3.92-5.13 trillion cells/liter for women.
- Hemoglobin—this is the protein in your blood that carries oxygen. Normal levels are around 132-166 grams/liter for men and 116-150 grams/liter for women.
Low levels for the numbers listed above can be indicative of anemia. Numbers that are too high can mean your heart has to work harder than it should to pump blood throughout your body.
White Blood Cell Count
White blood cells are your immune system’s “strike force”. They seek out and destroy pathogens in your blood to keep you healthy.
Normally, your white cell count should be from 3,400 to 9,600 cells per microliter of blood. Levels that are too low or two high can be indicative of anything from a mild cold to something more serious that necessitates a closer look.
Your body needs cholesterol to synthesize everything from hormones to vitamins to bile. However, too much of the wrong kinds of cholesterol has the potential for accumulating as waxy deposits that can block your blood vessels.
Blood tests for cholesterol often focus on three numbers:
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL)—a.k.a. “good” cholesterol
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)— a.k.a. “bad” cholesterol
Normally, HDL should be more than 45 mg/dL, LDL should be less than 100 mg/dL, and triglycerides should be less than 150 mg/dL.
High LDL and triglycerides are linked to higher coronary artery disease risk.
Hormones are critical to virtually every process in your body…and yet PCPs don’t routinely test them. PCPs also don’t typically have a lot of expertise where hormones are concerned.
This is of consequence because hormone production diminishes with age.
But fear not. Renew Youth has your hormones covered. We have the expertise to test your hormones, explain what the numbers mean, and provide tailored treatment plans if your hormone levels are sub-optimal.
Want to learn more? Call us at 800-859-7511 or use our contact form to set up your free 30-minute consultation.