Monitoring Your Health: Four Measures to Know

by : Pamela Dombrowski-Wilson

How many times have you gone for your annual medical appointment and the doctor discussed your measures? How many times did you remember the numbers but not remember what they meant? I am referring to the measures of blood pressure and cholesterol. These combined are a fairly good predictor of heart health. According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. representing 29 percent of the population and is the leading cause of disability.

Blood pressure consists of two readings the top number and the bottom number. The top number is called systolic pressure, defined as the pressure of blood in the arteries as the heart contracts to pump blood. The bottom number is called diastolic pressure, defined as the pressure of blood in the arteries that occurs when your heart is at rest between heartbeats.

The measures have been lowered for pre-high blood pressure and now range 120-139 systolic and 80-89 diastolic. Many people have no symptoms of high blood pressure and are not aware they have the condition. Blood pressure monitors are available for purchase at drug stores and in most pharmacy areas. If you suspect you have high blood pressure it is a good idea to talk to your doctor. Daily monitoring is a good way to monitor blood pressure whether you are taking medication or not.

Cholesterol is the other measure with two numbers. Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced in the liver and existing in certain foods. When there is too much cholesterol in the body, it settles in the arteries causing clogging and narrowing. We often hear about good and bad cholesterol. The good cholesterol measure is HDL (high density lipoprotein). The bad cholesterol measure is LDL (low density lipoprotein). The suggested appropriate level for total cholesterol is 200. LDL should be less than 100 and HDL should be 40 or higher. Many times cholesterol can be controlled by diet and exercise.

Ask your physician for the lab report that shows your blood test results and ask questions. Keep a copy at home to compare to subsequent lab reports to monitor your progress year to year. Blood pressure and cholesterol are four good measures to know in monitoring your ongoing health and wellness. It is important that we all become more educated about our own health so that we can become better consumer advocates for ourselves and our family members.