Your Health: Your Numbers

Do you know what they are?

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ORLANDO, Fla. — It's spring and time for some spring cleaning. But instead of just cleaning up your home, what if you cleaned up your health? Doctors use several critical numbers to monitor your health.

1. Blood pressure

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. When it's measured, the patient gets two numbers. The first is the systolic blood pressure, which is the pressure caused by the heart contracting and pushing the blood out. The second is the diastolic blood pressure, which is when the heart relaxes and fills with blood. Medical professionals record it as systolic over diastolic. A normal blood pressure is 120/80 according to the National Institute on Aging.

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2. Glucose

Glucose is a type of sugar you get from the food you eat. The body uses glucose for energy. During your annual physical exam, your primary care physician will likely order blood work to screen for your glucose level. A normal blood sugar level is less than 100 mg/dL after eight hours of fasting. People with diabetes have high blood sugar levels. This means their bodies might not be responding to the hormone insulin, which moves glucose from the blood into the cells, and they will need medical treatment.

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3. Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the blood. The human body needs cholesterol to build cells. Doctors focus on two types. LDL, or low density lipoprotein, is considered the "bad" type of cholesterol because high amounts of it are linked to heart attacks and strokes. HDL, or high density lipoprotein, is dubbed the "good" type of cholesterol because it absorbs cholesterol and transports it to the liver, allowing the body to flush it from the system.

The data in the chart below is provided by the American Heart Association.

Total Cholesterol: Less than 200 mg/dL  
LDL ("bad") Cholesterol LDL goals vary

Less than 100 mg/dL: Optimal

100 - 129 mg/dL: Near Optimal/Above Optimal

130 - 159 mg/dL: Borderline High

160 - 189 mg/dL: High

190 mg/dL and above: Very High

HDL ("good") Cholesterol Varies by gender

Men: 40 mg/dL

Women: 50 mg/dL 

4. Body Mass Index

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a person's body mass index as their weight divided by their height. The higher the number, the greater the indication the person is overweight and at higher risk for disease and health complications. However, the CDC says it is not meant to be a diagnostic tool.

You can measure your BMI (for adults) below.

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