Co-Editor's Blog

Essential Health Biometrics and You


Health biometrics matter greatly. Yet the very mention of the term conjures images of various, potentially overwhelming data that must be examined and understood before benefiting the person it describes. This article pertains specifically to blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, and body mass index (BMI), and provides an informative, but not exhaustive look at all four items.

Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the pressure that is exerted by the blood upon the walls of the blood vessels and arteries. It varies with the muscular efficiency of the heart, the blood volume and viscosity, the age and health of the person, and the condition of the vascular wall. It typically rises and falls throughout the day.
Blood pressure readings are given in two numbers. The top number is the maximum pressure the heart exerts while beating (systolic pressure). The bottom number is the amount of pressure in the arteries between beats (diastolic pressure). An example would be 112/72.
Below are the blood pressure ranges:

  • Normal = Systolic <120 and diastolic <80
  • Elevated = Systolic 120-129 and diastolic <80
  • Stage 1 = Systolic 130-139 or diastolic 80-89
  • Stage 2 = Systolic less than or equal to 140 or diastolic less than or equal to 90

Prolonged high blood pressure can create problems.
There are multiple ways to reduce blood pressure. Here are four:

  • Reduce your stress with exercise, meditation, or yoga.
  • Rethink your diet. Processed and packaged foods along with foods that are high in sodium don't help. Foods high in potassium do help.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation.
  • Avoid using tobacco, as it raises blood pressure.

Then there is cholesterol. The term gets tossed around more than a leaf in a hurricane, but here's a simple definition of it.
Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance made in the liver and found in certain foods. When too much is present, it can accumulate and cause hardening or narrowing of the arteries which may lead to heart disease and other problems.
Your total cholesterol level should be less than 200 mg/dl. Triglycerides are a type of fat formed from glycerol and three fatty acids. Triglycerides and cholesterol are both types of lipids. HDL indicates "good" cholesterol because it helps your body naturally regulate cholesterol levels, while LDL means "bad" cholesterol. Below are the best lipid levels to aim for:

  • HDL (high-density lipids) > 40 mg/dl
  • LDL (low-density lipids) < 100 mg/dl
  • Triglycerides < 150 mg/dl

Here are a few ways to improve your numbers:

  • Good nutrition and regular exercise can lead to weight loss. Make substitutions. Switch from bad fats to good fats. Adding more fiber makes a difference as well.
  • Drink water consistently.
  • Snack on fruits and vegetables instead of chips.
  • Increasing activity can help lower triglycerides.

Glucose is another number to pay attention to. It's a sugar energy source our body creates from food. A glucose test measures the amount of glucose, or sugar, in the bloodstream. This is a crucial number to know because it indicates whether a person is diabetic or pre-diabetic.
Glucose levels should usually be within the following ranges:
Before eating: 70 - 100 mg/dl
After eating: <200 mg/dl
These numbers may vary depending on the test taken.
These are some actions to improve glucose levels:

  • Meet with a dietician.
  • Increase activity levels with moderate exercise. The activity doesn't have to be strenuous to be effective.
  • Explore community options. Seek education and support.

Body Mass Index
Finally, we have Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a good number to know. But it is not a diagnostic tool and has limitations.
Body Mass Index is a number calculated from a person's weight and height. It's an indicator of body fat and a low cost, easy way of screening for weight levels that may lead to health problems.
The BMI categories are:

  • Underweight - Under 18.5
  • Normal - 18.5 to 24.9
  • Overweight - 25 to 29.9
  • Obese - 30 and above

Here are some simple tips to get your best BMI:

  • Set some goals.
  • Create a healthful regimen and stick to it.
  • Get active. This is a method that bears repeating as it makes a huge difference.
  • Eat right to boost the metabolism.

As always, consult a physician or a nutritionist for more information about what your biometric numbers mean. You can monitor these figures and others with regular checkups. Obtaining these numbers not only provides you with more knowledge, but also affords better control of your health and life.

*Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022. CDC.GOV; MedlinePlus. 2022.MEDLINEPLUS.GOV

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