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Health and Fitness News

To Mask or Not to Mask?

You know how much you weigh, but do you keep an eye on these other important numbers?

Health is more than just the absence of disease. Since many early symptoms of disease fly under the radar, you could be in the early stages of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes and not even know it. However, the earlier a disease is detected, the greater your chances of successfully treating it or even preventing it. That’s why it’s so important to get regular screening tests.

Screenings provide you with a range of information, much of it in numbers. When you think of your health, the number you may think of first is your weight, but there are plenty of other numbers that play an important role in your health.

Here are five of them.

1: Body Mass Index (BMI)

Being overweight puts you at risk for a host of diseases—heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, cancer, fatty liver disease, and others. And while your weight gives a general indication of your health, it doesn’t give the full picture. A more accurate measurement is your body mass index (BMI), which takes your weight and height into consideration. Your BMI also gives you an idea of your body fat percentage. A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m2. Anything above this is considered overweight or obese.

2: Waist Circumference

Where do you carry your weight? Are you an apple or a pear? Apple-shaped people carry extra weight around their middle and are at a greater risk for heart disease and diabetes. Fat around the abdominal organs is especially dangerous to your health, so it’s important to keep an eye on your waist circumference. Fortunately, you don’t need a doctor to tell you this number. Just grab a measuring tape and do it yourself. In addition to your waist, measure your hips to get a waist-to-hip ratio by dividing the waist measurement by the hip measurement. A healthy waist is 35 inches or less and your waist-to-hip ratio should be 0.8 or lower.

3: Cholesterol

High cholesterol can lead to the buildup of plaque in your arteries, which narrows your blood vessels and places stress on your heart. Over time, this puts you at increased risk for stroke, heart attack, and heart disease. A quick blood test will show your cholesterol levels. A healthy reading is less than 200 mg/dL for total cholesterol, greater than 50 mg/dL for HDL (high-density lipoprotein or “good”) cholesterol, and less than 130 mg/dL for LDL (low-density lipoprotein or “bad”) cholesterol.

4: Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the amount of pressure placed on blood vessel walls by the blood. High blood pressure puts you at risk for stroke, heart disease, heart failure, and kidney disease. Since it’s possible to have high blood pressure and not know it, it's smart to get tested on a regular basis. A reading over 120/80 mm Hg is considered high.

5: Blood Sugar

When your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t process it properly, sugar can build up in your blood, putting you at risk for type 2 diabetes. Over time, high blood sugar can damage your nerves, kidneys, eyes, and blood vessels. With an early diagnosis of high blood sugar, you can make the necessary diet and lifestyle changes that may slow diabetes or prevent it altogether. A healthy fasting blood glucose reading is less than 100 mg/dL and an A1C test of below 5.7 percent.