Setting Goals to Achieve a Lasting, Healthy Lifestyle
We all want to lead long, healthy, active lives. In recent years, doctors and researchers have made advancements in understanding how to prevent disease and stay active well into old age through measurable data.
This article will give you an overview of the health measurements doctors use so you can set healthy goals.
It’s no secret that obesity is one of the most serious public health issues in the United States. Being obese is linked to a range of serious health issues, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, cancer, joint and back problems, gallstones, and more. However, obesity is more complex than the number of pounds showing on your scale.
Figuring out your body fat percentage is an important way to decide what your ideal weight is. To get an accurate measurement, it’s best to make an appointment with a doctor or fitness professional, who can use special instruments to calculate your body fat. The graphic below shows how to calculate your ideal weight.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Body mass index, or BMI, is a simpler calculation that can provide an idea of where you fall in the range from underweight to obese. While it can be accurate for some people, there are also flaws with this measurement for certain body types. Entering your height and weight into an online calculator is an easy way to calculate your BMI.
This measurement focuses on the shape of your body. Research has shown that people who carry more weight in the midsection face higher health risks than people who carry more weight in the hips. Calculating your waist-to-hip ratio is simple:
- Measure the circumference of your hips at the widest part of your buttocks.
- Next, measure your waist at the smaller circumference of your waist, just above your belly button.
- Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement.
If the ratio is greater than .86 in women and .95 in men, you may be at a higher risk for heart disease.
Other Common Health Assessment Measurements
While obesity is major contributor to the risk of many diseases, there are other measurements that paint a more complete picture of your health. These can seem complicated, so don’t hesitate to ask your doctor or nurse to explain exactly what they mean.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a serious condition that can be caused by both lifestyle and genetics. Your measurement will show two numbers: the first is systolic and the other is diastolic. These two numbers represent the maximum and minimum pressure in your arteries during the cardiac cycle.
A healthy blood pressure is 120/80, and anything over 129 systolic or 89 diastolic is considered high. A related assessment your doctor will check is your heart rate, or the number of times your heart beats per minute. Anything between 60 and 100 beats per minute is considered normal, and in general, people with better levels of aerobic fitness will have a lower heart rate.
There are two types of cholesterol that your doctor will measure: high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is good, and your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is bad. Your LDL should stay below 100 and your HDL should stay above 40. Having more HDL decreases your risk of heart disease, so doctors often measure the ratio of your total cholesterol to your HDL. The ideal ratio is between 3.5 and 4, and a lower ratio is better.
Triglycerides come from both the fat that you eat and fats produced naturally by your body. Along with high cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides put you at risk for heart disease. While there is a genetic component to both of these factors, they can be managed through diet and medication. A good rule of thumb is that no more than 10-20% of your diet should be fats.
Blood glucose measures the amount of sugar in your blood. High levels put you at risk for diabetes, which can lead to complications like blindness, nerve damage, amputation, stroke, and kidney failure. Fasting blood glucose levels between 100 and 125 are defined as “prediabetes”, and anything above 126 is formally diagnosed as diabetes. Cutting back on sugary foods, along with diet, exercise and medication can help prevent, manage and, in some cases, even cure diabetes.
Liver enzymes give your doctor an idea of how well your liver is functioning. Drinking alcohol and taking certain types of medications, like Tylenol or cholesterol and blood pressure medicine, can damage your liver.
Your blood is made up of many different components: red and white blood cells, platelets, hemoglobin (the amount of oxygen your blood can carry) and hematocrit (the ratio of red cells to the total volume of blood). A complete blood count (CBC) can help doctors see why you are having certain symptoms, and what changes you may need to make to your diet and medication.
ConclusionYou may feel overwhelmed with all of the numbers and measurements your doctor tells you at an appointment, but the most important thing to keep in mind is simply to listen to your body. Eating well and staying active are proven to make you feel better, both physically and mentally. Combined with routine checkups, simple lifestyle changes can help you live a longer, more fulfilling life.