We know lots of numbers — phone numbers, birthdays, bank account balances — but all of these pale in comparison to the numbers we ought to know, too — our health numbers. What are these health numbers you should know, and why? If I’ve piqued your curiosity, and now you’re struggling to think of even one, keep reading. Here are 8 health numbers you should know.
A recent UCLA study revealed that a shockingly high percentage of dangerously obese women don’t know they’re obese; often they under-estimate their weight by twenty percent! That’s dangerous because if you don’t know you have a weight issue, you can’t address it. If you haven’t stepped on an accurate scale lately, do it.
Aside from knowing your exact weight, it’s also a good idea to know this health number, which is your Body Mass Index. There are lots of calculators available, but I’ve found a very simple one at the American Institute for Cancer Research website. They also have an interesting waist measurement tool that can help assess whether or not you need to lose weight: if you’re a woman, and your waist circumference is more than 31.5 inches, you are likely overweight, and are at a high risk of weight-related illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and cancer.
CHOLESTEROL (GOOD AND BAD)
Here’s anther set of health numbers you should know. Yes, your cholesterol count should actually be three numbers; one that shows your overall count, one that shows your LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol and one that shows your HDL (or “good”) cholesterol. If you overall number is high, but your HDL is also high, then you might not be in as much trouble as, say, your total cholesterol is on the low side, but your LDL cholesterol is high. Your doctor will have a treatment plan for any type of high cholesterol, including dietary changes and perhaps medication.
As we age, our eyesight can suffer, but sometimes it can happen so gradually, we don’t even notice it. That’s why, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, we should have our eyes every two to four years before we’re 40, then every one to three years before we’re 54, and more frequently after that, especially if we have risk factors for eye disease. Changes in your vision can indicate other health problems, and of course, we want to make sure we’re driving with the right glasses or contacts, too!
The package labels for most sunscreens and sunblocks have been so confusing in the past 30 years that the FDA has recommended changes to them, effective this summer. Now it’s easy to know your SPF: according to the FDA, we should all be wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 protection, and reapplying about every two hours, even on overcast days. This is one health number you should know for sure, since skin cancer caused by sun exposure is the leading cause of cancer deaths for women aged 20 to 29.
Losing, maintaining or gaining weight is as simple as a math equation. If you want to lose weight, the calorie you consume must be LESS THAN the calories you burn. If you wan to maintain your weight, the calories you consume must be about the SAME AS the calories you burn. If you want to gain weight, the calories you consume must be MORE THAN the calories you burn. Not sure how many calories you consume or burn in a day, or how many you should be consuming or burning?
RESTING HEART RATE
If you’re not at all worried about your heart health, you should be. We now know that women are just as much as risk of death from heart disease as men, in fact, even more, since so many of us don’t know and ignore the symptoms of heart disease. We also don’t know how to measure our heart health, and one way is to determine your resting heart rate. According to the Mayo Clinic, a normal resting heart rate for an adult is between 60 and 100 beats per minute; a very fit adult may have a resting heart rate of about 40. Anything higher or lower than this range can indicate a serious heart issue, so this is one health number you should know, for sure!
The CDC reports that in 2007, more than 200,000 women in the US were diagnosed with breast cancer, and more than 40,000 women died from it. That’s just one year! Early detection is key to survival, and one of the most effective tools in early detection and diagnosis is a mammogram. If you have risk factors for breast cancer, especially if you’re over 40, it’s time to schedule a mammogram!