1/3/10

Day #2: Know your numbers

As a parent, you probably insist that your children know by-heart, 3 very important numbers:
Home phone number
Address
Emergency cell phone number

As an adult, it is very important that you know your numbers as well. What are your numbers?
Blood Pressure
Cholesterol
BMI
Resting heart rate
Blood sugar

The purpose of this change is to get to know your numbers. Since we are starting fresh with a new year, it is time to call the doctor for the recommended yearly visit and start understanding why you are choosing to live a healthy and active lifestyle. While you may be starting a diet in order to fit into your college or pre-pregnancy jeans, it is more important that you are eating healthy and exercising in order to control your cholesterol levels or prevent a rise in BMI.
While not all numbers can be found at home (ex. blood sugar), it is important that on a yearly-basis, you recognize that your body is going to change as you age. The best way to maintain weight is to know your weight. The best way to control your cholesterol is to know your cholesterol. The best way to balance your blood sugar is to know your blood sugar. If you go to the doctor once a year and your doc says that your blood work and lab values came back positive...pat yourself on the back that you are taking great care of your insides as well as your outsides. If you step on the scale and you don't like the number you see, evaluate the steps that you are taking (or have taken) to reach a recommended weight...which is not always your goal weight. Remember, you must ask yourself what changes you must make in order to take your body weight down by 5-10 lbs, if that is all you want to lose to "tone up". If you know you need to lose 50 lbs to move yourself from an overweight BMI to a healthy BMI, be realistic of how long that will take you. If your physician tells you that your resting HR (which should be taken first thing in the morning) is too high, let him/her know that you are starting an exercise program and that you needed his/her permission to start working out with a trainer.

While some of these numbers are old news, I hope you find it refreshing to remind yourself of why you are working out on a daily basis and choosing to reward your body with heart-healthy foods. If these are new numbers, tell yourself that you are starting fresh and nothing long-term happens overnight. While a number can be misleading (ex. BMI or weight on the scale) and may not represent your actual health status, it is always good to have a guideline and something to work towards.

Optimal numbers

Blood pressure:
hypotension 90/60 mm Hg
normal 120/80 mm Hg
pre hypertension 120-139/80-89 mm Hg
Stage 1 hypertension 140-159/90-99 mm Hg
Stage 2 Hypertension 160/100 mm Hg

Most nurses will rush you from the waiting room, into a room, plop you on a chair and take your blood pressure. For a more accurate reading, ask if you can sit upright in a chair, feet flat on the floor and with limbs uncrossed, for 5 minutes. If you are taking blood pressure at home, it is best to do it first thing in the morning. Do not drink coffee, have caffeinated products/drinks or engage in strenuous exercise for at least 30 minutes before taking BP.

Cholesterol:
You need cholesterol in the diet and in the body. However, too much cholesterol can cause “sticky” arterial walls. Commonly due to high fat foods (although high cholesterol can be genetic), plaque builds up in the arteries, which can narrow or even block blood flow. And you thought exercising at a high HR was hard enough? Diet and exercise can have extreme positive effects on cholesterol.
Total Cholesterol – less than 200
HDL(good cholesterol) – should be more than 40 for men and more than 50 for a women
LDL (bad cholesterol) – should be less than 100

Fasting blood sugar:
It is important to note that your fasting blood sugar levels do not 100% mean that you have diabetes. It is important to know your numbers when it comes to blood sugar, especially if you are at a healthy weight, exercise daily and feel that you suffer from hypo or hyperglycemia. I find that hyper and hypoglycemia are often self-diagnosed by many athletes who feel light-head before, during and after training. However, with a few changes in the diet, spastic blood sugar problems are solved. If you are overweight and feel you may suffer from diabetes, get yourself to a doctor, accept the fact that you will need insulin and move on. There are athletes (successful) and celebrities with diabetes and do not use it as a limiter.
Normal: less than 100 mg/dL (typically 79-99)
Hypoglycemia: less than 70
Hyperglycemia: typically above 180 but symptoms may occur around 270-360
Fasting blood sugar will help determine if you have diabetes or if you have trouble with your blood sugar levels.
Your A1C levels are also tested if you are at-risk or diagnosed for diabetes. Normal is 4.2-4.6%. The higher your A1C level, the more likely you may have diabetes.

Resting HR:
While there are several recommendation tables, it is best to find your resting HR (find pulse on neck or on wrist, count for 60 seconds), 3 consecutive days, first thing in the morning (laying in bed, before you get up) and then average your results. Keep track of your resting HR as you progress through your training/exercise routine. Resting HR is a great FREE tool to tell if you are improving with your training or if you are overtraining (higher than normal resting HR after a few hard days of training may indicate overtraining...not that you are burning calories while sleeping because your HR is pumping overtime). Also, you can use your resting HR as part of the Karvonen HR method to determine an estimate of your training zones.


Body Mass Index:

BMI is a popular method to determine total body fat or to place you at-risk for several diseases. It may overestimate body fat in athletes (ex.muscular build) and may underestimate body fat in older persons (ex. those who have lost muscle mass).
To find:
Body weight (KG)/Height2 (meters) = BMI
Try this site:
To determine BMI


BMI of
40 or higher is extreme obesity
35 - 39.9 is very obese
30-34 is obese
26- 29 is overweight
25-18.5 is normal
Less than 18.5 is underweight

Waist circumference:
Waist circumference is actually the most reliable tool to predict body composition and risk for disease. I'm sure you have heard of apple and pear body shape? Measure your waist with measuring tape, just above the hip, meeting at your belly button.
Recommended:
less than 40 in. for men
less than 35 in. women

There are many more numbers that important to your health but I thought I'd bring up a few that I feel are valuable for you as you move forward to meet your short and long term health goals. Are there other numbers that you feel are important to your health? I'd love to hear them!