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3 Health Baselines You Should Know

With all the information that's so easily available, we have more tools than ever to assess our overall fitness and wellness levels. However, the data is often hard to filter, in terms of importance. Moreover, many people cannot distinguish between a good number and a bad number.

 

A working knowledge of where you belong on the fitness continuum is good not only for doctor's visits, but also for deciding whether to participate in a workplace wellness program and other everyday events.

 

Blood Pressure

Over time, hypertension damages the arteries, leading to a greatly increased risk of fatal heart disease:

 

  • Restricted Blood Flow: Excess blood also means excess fats, which build up along arterial walls and all but eliminate the natural elasticity in blood vessels.

  • Aneurysm: In other instances, the excess blood collects and builds up inside the artery. If the aneurysm ruptures, and it almost inevitably will, that event can cause uncontrolled internal bleeding.

 

The restricted blood flow can also lead to strokes, dementia, and other brain damage. Additionally, hypertension often causes eye problems, like retinopathy (eye blood vessel damage), and kidney failure.

 

In blood pressure readings, the top number is the systolic pressure, or the amount of stress on the arteries when the heart beats, and the bottom number is the diastolic  pressure when the heart is at rest. Typically, the systolic pressure is the more important metric in terms of prehypertension. Anything less than 120/80 is usually considered normal, and anything higher than 140/90 is high blood pressure. Understanding normal blood pressure range by age, gender, and activity level will put you on the right path to preventing hypertension.

BMI

In the 1980s, baseball writer Bill James was among the first people to suggest that some metrics normally used to track player performance, such as a pitcher's win-loss record, only told part of the story. The plethora of measurements now available, such as dERA, ERA+, QS, and PERA, just to name a few, offer more information but are very confusing to the average fan.

 

Body Mass Index is somewhat the same. Since weight alone is an often incomplete assessment of health, BMI factors in both weight and height. 20-25 is a normal weight, and that normally means no excess fat whatsoever. 26 to 29 is a few pounds overweight, and over 30 is at-risk for diabetes and other obesity-related health conditions.

 

BMI is often rather deceptive, because short people and tall people nearly always register as overweight. Furthermore, BMI, like body weight, does not distinguish between muscle and fat. So, while BMI is a good indicator of a healthy weight, it should not be the final word.

 

Cholesterol

Essentially, both cholesterol and triglycerides are fat cells that can, over time, constrict arteries and even block them altogether.

 

Blood cholesterol levels under 200 mg/dL are normal, 200 to 239 is usually borderline high, and anything above 240 is high. Triglycerides should be below 150; 150 to 199 is borderline high and 200 is high. However, these high-level numbers only tell part of the story.

 

Triglycerides and cholesterol are both very nuanced, as they are really umbrella terms for a wide variety of chemicals. Not all of these chemicals are necessarily unhealthy. So, if your doctor says your cholesterol or triglycerides are high, you'll probably need more information to prepare a recovery plan that's right for you.

 

It's important to know your numbers, but it's also important to understand them and to ask questions when you need more information.