The term "knowing your numbers" is used as a proactive approach to managing one’s health, recognizing indicators like blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar play an important role in our health. "Knowing your numbers" can help you understand the state of your physical health and help you work with your doctor to improve your physical well-being, which is the most important type of medicine: preventative medicine. Taking your time now, while you are still healthy, can help slow down or even stop chronic illness.

Elevated blood pressure, or hypertension, can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke if left unchecked. It’s important to recognize these two values: systolic pressure (measures the force of blood against the artery walls when the heart beats) and diastolic pressure (the force when the heart is at rest between beats). Here are some numbers to look for when taking your blood pressure:

  • Normal: Below 130/80 mm Hg.
  • Elevated: Systolic between 120-129 mm Hg, diastolic less than 80 mm Hg.
  • Hypertension Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139 mm Hg., diastolic between 80-89 mm Hg.
  • Hypertension Stage 2: Systolic 140 mm Hg. or higher, diastolic 90 mm Hg. or higher.

Cholesterol levels can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, a condition where arteries become narrowed due to the accumulation of plaque. Routine cholesterol screenings with your physician will show your lipid profile, which is separated into three categories:

  • Low-density cholesterol (LDL): "Bad" cholesterol that contributes to plaque formation in the arteries.
    • Optimal: Below 100 mg/dL
    • Near Optimal/Above Optimal: 100-129 mg/dL
    • Borderline High: 200-239 mg/dL
    • High: 240 mg/dL and above
  • High-density cholesterol (HDL): "Good" cholesterol that helps remove LDL from the bloodstream.
    • Poor: Below 40 mg/dL
    • Better: 40-59 mg/dL
    • Best: 60 mg/dL and above
  • Total Cholesterol: Encompasses both LDL and HDL levels.
    • Desirable Range: Below 200 mg/dL
    • Borderline High: 200-239 mg/dL
    • High: 240 mg/dL

Blood sugar, or glucose, is the primary source of energy for the body’s cells. Understanding blood sugar levels is valuable for overall health, especially for those with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. You can purchase blood glucose meters or visit a primary care physician to test blood sugar levels. Here are some numbers to know when measuring blood glucose:

  • Fasting Blood Sugar (measured after an overnight fast):
    • Normal Range: 70-100 mg/dL
    • Prediabetic Range: 100-125 mg/dL
    • Diabetes Range: 126 mg/dL or higher
  • Postprandial Blood Sugar (measured two hours after eating):
    • Normal Range: Below 140 mg/dL
    • Prediabetes Range: 140-199 mg/dL
    • Diabetes Range: 200 mg/dL or higher

"Knowing your numbers" is not just a catchphrase, it’s a reminder to advocate for your health. I encourage my patients to embrace this proactive approach to health to better understand their metrics, take charge of their well-being, and work toward a healthier, happier life.