here are the figures that really count, write Jayne Keedle and Peta Doherty.
Phone numbers, PINs, security codes. we know these numbers by heart but what about the numbers that are near and dear to our heart? most people can probably rattle off their weight and height but ask most of us about our cholesterol levels, blood pressure or body mass index and we’re usually stuck for answers.
While we may not all have ideal bodies, doctors say we should at least be aiming for ideal numbers when it comes to our health and fitness. Knowing your vital statistics is important, health professionals say, because these benchmarks help us keep track of our health. With that in mind, here are some of the numbers that medical professionals use to measure health.
FACTS THAT EQUAL A HEALTHY HEART
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120/80: Generally, blood pressure should be lower than 120 over 80 (millimetres of mercury). The first number, which is always higher, measures systolic pressure. That’s the force of blood pressing against the arteries when the heart pumps. The second, lower number measures diastolic pressure, which is the blood pressure between each heartbeat. High blood pressure, which can lead to stroke, heart disease, kidney damage and even memory problems, could be indicated when systolic pressure is higher than 120 or when diastolic pressure is higher than 80. ”Both warrant treatment, so both numbers count,” says Dr Jennifer Lindstrom, a specialist in internal medicine and clinical nutrition at new York’s Albany Medical Centre.
2 or less: most people know that high cholesterol levels have been linked to heart disease but many people are confused about the way cholesterol levels are measured and what the different numbers mean. Here’s the breakdown. Cholesterol levels are measured in millimoles of cholesterol per litre of blood, (mmol/L) and they are measured in three ways:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is bad cholesterol and should be no higher than 2mmol/L.
1 or more: High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is considered good cholesterol because it helps protect against coronary heart disease. Higher numbers here are better – above 1mmol/L.
Below 1.5: Cholesterol includes triglyceride, a component of cholesterol that relates to blood sugar, and that number should be lower than 1.5mmol/L. High triglyceride levels can cause fatty deposits to build up in the liver and can lead to diabetes and heart disease. The bottom line is that the maths varies and each number matters. if you don’t know your blood-cholesterol level, ask your doctor to check it by conducting a blood test.
ADDING UP TO THE BODY BEAUTIFUL
18.5 to 25: In the old-maths world of beauty queens, 36-24-36 (inches) added up to the perfect figure. Medically speaking, the new maths is a bit more complicated because it is based on body mass index (BMI).
To calculate it, take your weight in kilograms and divide that figure by your height, in metres, squared. (If you don’t want to do the maths, you’ll find a BMI calculator here).
An index of 18.5 to 25 is considered a healthy BMI. an index of 25 to 30 is considered overweight and more than 30 obese. In 2007-08, 61 per cent of Australian adults were overweight or obese. Childhood obesity is a growing problem, too.
80 and 94: BMI is used as a screen for adiposity, or excess fat, but as visceral belly fat is considered the most dangerous, waist circumference is another measure of health. even if you’re of normal weight, a pot belly is a health risk. as a general rule, a waist measurement of less than 80 centimetres for women and less than 94 centimetres for a men is considered healthy. These recommendations are for caucasian men and caucasian and Asian women. Waist measurements are yet to be determined for all ethnic groups. they may be lower for Asian men and are likely to be higher for Pacific Islanders and African Americans. To download a tape measure, see measureup.gov.au.
To get an accurate measurement, wrap the tape measure snugly around your waist just above the hips (across the belly button) and relax.
Medically, you’re better off being pear-shaped than apple-shaped but as body shape is inherited, there’s not much you can do to change it short of plastic surgery. but trimming your waistline can reduce the associated health risks of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
5.5 or less: Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity, is a growing health concern for many people.
If your weight or family history put you in a high-risk category, it’s important to have your blood-sugar levels tested regularly. Ideally, according to Douglass Hanly Moir Pathology, fasting blood-sugar levels should be 5.5mmol/L or less. if the result is between 5.5mmol/L and 6.9mmol/L, a second test, or a glucose tolerance test, is warranted. A fasting blood-sugar level of 7mmol/L or more is consistent with diabetes but this may need to be confirmed with further testing.
THE PRIME AGE FOR TESTING
18: Gynaecologists recommend women get their first Pap test at age 18, or within two years of becoming sexually active – whichever is later. The National Cervical Screening Program promotes routine screening with Pap smears every two years for women between the ages of 18 and 69 years. The current human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccines only target two-thirds of the viral strains responsible for cervical cancers, so all vaccinated women will still need regular Pap smears.
40: BreastScreen Australia offers free mammograms to women aged 40 years and over, specifically targeting women aged 50-69 years. Women aged over 50 years are advised to have a breast X-ray every two years. To book your appointment with BreastScreen Australia, phone 13 20 50.
45: The Heart Foundation recommends regular blood-cholesterol tests from age 45. More than half of Australian adults have elevated cholesterol levels, which increases their risk of heart disease. Testing is recommended for younger adults who have high blood pressure, smoke or have a family history of heart disease.
50: If you are over 50, you should be tested for bowel cancer every two years. Bowel cancer can be treated successfully if detected in its early stages but fewer than 40 per cent of cases are detected early.
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is a partially funded program that offers free faecal occult blood tests (FOBT) – the best researched screening test for bowel cancer – to people who turned 50 years old between January 2008 and December 2010 and those who turned 55 or 65 between July 2008 and December 2010.
Completing an FOBT every two years can reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer by up to one-third. if you are not eligible for a free test you can talk to your doctor or pharmacist about buying an FOBT. for more information, call the Cancer Council Helpline, 13 11 20.
60 and over: Osteoporosis Australia recommends bone-density screening about 10 years after the onset of menopause. Women who have had surgical menopause, or anyone who has had a low-trauma fracture or is taking certain medication, should be screened at an earlier age. The federal government will subsidise bone-density screenings for all people from age 70.
”The point about all these screening tests is these are just guidelines,” Lindstrom says. ”People may fall outside these guidelines, depending on their personal risk and family history. That’s why it’s really important for them to talk to a doctor about it.”
<a href="http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/wellbeing/your-health-by-numbers-20110302-1beqm.html?from=smh_sbtag:news.google.com,2005:cluster=http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/wellbeing/your-health-by-numbers-20110302-1beqm.html?from=smh_sbWed, 02 Mar 2011 12:58:28 GMT 00:00″>Your health by numbers