Wellness Journeys

Health by the Numbers

Most people know they should ask their doctors about strange or unusual symptoms. But if they’re feeling well, they don’t ask health questions. Unfortunately, many of the deadliest health risks — such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol — have few symptoms or even none at all! However, you can take control of your own health and identify silent health risks by having regular screenings, and beyond that, actually learning what the numbers mean.

There are several important health metrics that you should know and track. By monitoring the trends of your numbers and your progress in keeping them under control, you improve your chances at a longer, healthier life.

Here are three main health risks you should screen for annually:

Blood pressure
One in three American adults has hypertension (high blood pressure) or pre-hypertension. It's an important predictor of heart health, so be sure to screen for it and take steps to correct it if either the systolic (top number) or diastolic (bottom number) measurement is high. Between 1996 and 2006, the number of deaths attributed to hypertension rose by 48 percent — so it's a deadly problem that's on the rise.

Shoot for: 120/80 or below. A reading of 120+/80+ is prehypertension, and 140+/90+ is hypertension. If either number, systolic or diastolic, is in a higher range, you are at risk.

High cholesterol can be a precursor to a heart attack, so it's a very important metric to know. Measuring for cholesterol actually involves three separate measurements: HDL ("good" cholesterol), LDL ("bad" cholesterol), and triglycerides, which are a type of fat (lipid) found in your blood. All three are part of what's called your "lipid profile." These fats don't dissolve in blood, so they continue to circulate through your body — where they can contribute to plaque build up and hardening of your arteries.

The American Heart Association recommends that adults age 20 and over get a lipid profile every year.

Shoot for:

  • HDL of 60 mg/dL or higher. If you’re lower than 50 mg/dL for women or 40 mg/dL for men, then you’re high risk.
  • LDL of 100 or lower, especially if other risk factors are present. If you’re at high risk for heart disease, talk to your doctor — you may need to shoot for an even lower LDL.
  • Triglycerides of less than 150 mg/dL. The American Heart Association recommends trying to reach 100 mg/dL through diet, exercise and weight loss, rather than through medications. Over 200 mg/dL is high risk and should be controlled.

Waist Measurements
More than your BMI, or even your weight, your waist circumference and/or waist-to-hip ratio can help predict your risk of heart disease. A large waist measurement corresponds to, among other problems, an increased risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Even a gain or loss of as little as an inch off your waistline can have a dramatic effect on your risk of heart disease.

Shoot for: A waist circumference of 35 inches or less for women; 40 inches or less for men. A waist-to-hip ratio of <0.80 for women and <0.90 for men.

FYI — Waist size is a better indicator of heart problems than weight, because those who work out regularly might weigh more from gaining lean muscle mass.

For each of these metrics, and other health issues, some of the most important things you can do are to exercise regularly (at least 150 minutes a week), eat healthy meals, and not smoke cigarettes.

Other numbers you need to know:

Health screenings and workplace wellness
A healthy workplace is a productive workplace, with higher employee morale and lower health insurance and disability costs.

With PHS’ onsite health screening services, employers can hold an initial screening to help employees determine their baseline biometrics, and then track the numbers in following years. Employers also get aggregate data each year — enabling you to track trends in your employee population that will help you target education programs and wellness activities and better manage your medical benefits costs.

PHS provides complete wellness screening services. To schedule an onsite health screening for your workplace, contact us.


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