As we age it's important to stay on top of our numbers whether they be for cholesterol, blood sugar or blood pressure. Knowing your range is an important part of staying healthy, but before we get to what "ideal" numbers should look like, let's discuss what these numbers actually measure, and why they are so important.
As we talked about in our blog "Under Pressure," which you can take a look at here, high blood pressure is a condition where the continuous pressure of blood against arterial walls at a high enough level causes concern as it damages the blood vessels and even other organs eventually leading to health problems such as heart disease and stroke. Heart attack and stroke are the first and third leading causes of death in the US, so for obvious reasons, tracking your blood pressure is an important part of your health regimen.
Typically, you will see blood pressure measured with two numbers- a larger number on top and smaller number beneath (for example 115/75). The number on top (or Systolic pressure) is the amount of pressure in your arteries while the heart contracts, and the bottom number (called Diastolic pressure) is the amount of pressure in your arteries while your heart is between beats.
These numbers can vary throughout the day, but a general rule is to have your blood pressure measure lower than 120/80. This can help prevent heart disease, stroke and other complications later in life.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in all parts of the body. The body needs cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D and enzymes, but actually creates all of the cholesterol it needs internally. High cholesterol can be associated with heart disease and other complications, so it's important to know your numbers.
Total Cholesterol is measured in one number which is actually the milligrams of cholesterol found in one deciliter of blood (for example 245mg/dL). "Good cholesterol" would be considered anything under 200 milligrams per deciliter of blood, or 200mg/dL.
You will have to fast for 9 to 12 hours to get an accurate reading of total cholesterol during your lipid panel as HDL, LDL and triglicerides are all tested.
An A1C test blood test is used to diagnose diabetes and help track glucose levels over time for better diabetes management. The A1C test goes by many other names, including glycated hemoglobin, glycosylated hemoglobin, hemoglobin A1C and HbA1c, but they are all testing the same thing.
Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that can become coated in sugar (or "glycated") and the A1C measures how much of that protein has been affected by this process. A lower level means that you have better blood sugar control and that your risk of diabetes is low. People concerned about Diabetes should have an A1C lower than 5.7.
Generally, Diabetics are asked to test their blood sugar after fasting (usually first thing in the morning) and after meals ("postprandial"). This glucose measurement is a reflection of how much sugar is in your bloodstream which is an important indication of whether or not an individual may have Diabetes. If sugar molecules can't get absorbed into blood cells, they float int he blood stream increasing the glucose level. A fasting glucose level should be less than 100mg/dL and a postprandial glucose reading should be under 140 as blood sugar levels always tend to increase after eating.
You should make it a part of your life to keep a journal of your numbers, especially if you are one of the millions of Americans dealing with health concerns like Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol and Obesity. These numbers can quite literally save your life, so get to know them!
We offer free journal/log books for those that inquire, so feel free to reach out to us for resources that can help keep you on your path to wellness.
Give us a call at 408-984-7444.