Do you think you might be at risk for diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases? How can you find out? Well fortunately there is a system of “numbers” we can use to tell us how we compare to healthier individuals. By knowing your numbers, you can take action to make positive changes that will help prevent the onset of chronic health conditions. Considering the likelihood that many individuals will develop a chronic, preventable disease resulting in poor quality of life, declining productivity, and higher health care costs has become a major concern and priority for health care providers, insurers, and employers, especially Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.
Every person is unique and requires personalized assessment based on the best medical evidence.
Preventive screenings help you get familiar with your numbers and tackle health concerns before they become more serious—or to prevent health problems in the first place.
For example, a high waist circumference number indicates a greater level of abdominal fat which is associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services women with a waist circumference of more than 35 inches, and men with a waist circumference of more than 40 inches are at increased disease risk.
Of course, you inherit some risk for these diseases from your family. But the majority of chronic disease risk is in the lifestyle we lead – specifically linked to smoking, poor diet and an inactive lifestyle. These are things you can change.
Before you visit your doctor for your next health checkup, try to be prepared to talk about which preventive screenings you need:
- Blood pressure
- Fasting glucose (blood sugar)
- Body mass index (BMI)
- Blood Pressure – This is one of the strongest markers for heart disease risk. It is measured as two numbers. Systolic pressure is the first number and is the pressure when the heart is contracting. Diastolic is the second number and is the pressure when the heart is at rest between beats. Normal blood pressure is 120 / 80 or below.
- Cholesterol Levels – Too much bad cholesterol can lead to a hardening of your arteries. This can put you at risk for a heart attack or stroke. When it comes to cholesterol, there are two important numbers you should know. LDL, is the bad cholesterol, and should be below 130 mg/dL, and lower is better. HDL, is good cholesterol, and should be above 40 mg/dL. Your total cholesterol (TC) level should be below 200 mg/dL.
- Blood Sugar – A blood sugar test is commonly used to diagnose the presence of diabetes. A fasting blood sugar (taken when you haven’t eaten for 12 hours) should be below 100 mg/dL.
- Body Mass Index (BMI) – This is calculated from two other numbers that you probably know – your weight and height. Your BMI will be one way to gauge if you are classified as being overweight. However, it is not a perfect measure. In people with above normal muscle mass, like bodybuilders, the BMI may indicate the individual is overweight when they are in great condition. For most of us, however, BMI is a great way to gauge how our weight compares to recommended levels. Here is an easy way to calculate your BMI.
If you know your numbers, solving the total health equation is a lot easier.