Know Your Numbers — and What You Can Do to Change Them
You might not think of it this way, but your health is really a numbers game. Some numbers you can track yourself, while others require a blood test, but they’re all important when it comes to your overall wellness. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on weight and cholesterol levels.
Let’s start with weight, since it’s certainly a biggie (no pun intended). More than one-third of adults in the U.S. are considered obese, which means they weigh at least 20% more than is ideal for their height. The best way to determine where you stand is by measuring your Body Mass Index (BMI).
Here’s an example using someone who is 5’3” and weighs 125 pounds:
- Multiply weight in pounds by 0.45
- 125 x 0.45 = 56.25 kg
- Multiply height in inches by 0.025
- 63 x 0.025 = 1.575 m
- Square the previous answer
- 575 x 1.575 = 2.480625
- Divide the answer from the first step with the answer from the third
- 25 ÷ 2.480625 = 22.7
This person’s BMI is 22.7, which falls within the healthy range of 19 and 25. Substitute your own numbers to see where you fall — and be aware that a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.
Now let’s move on to cholesterol levels, something determined by a blood test that measures three categories: total cholesterol, LDL or “bad cholesterol” and HDL or “good cholesterol.” For adults, total cholesterol of less than 200 (milligrams per deciliter or mg/dL) is considered desirable. Readings between 200 and 239 are considered borderline, and above 240 is considered high. In addition, your LDL should be less than 100 and your HDL should be at least 60.
Your cholesterol level is affected by many factors, including diet, weight, exercise, age, gender and heredity. Those last three you can’t do anything about, so your focus should be on the others. You can change your habits to positively affect your cholesterol levels and weight, as follows:
- Eat heart-healthy foods
- Reduce saturated fats and eliminate trans fats (read labels)
- Eat foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, herring, walnuts and flaxseeds
- Increase soluble fiber, found in foods like oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples and pears
- Add whey protein, found in dairy products
- Exercise and increase your physical activity
- Schedule at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week OR vigorous aerobic activity for 20 minutes three times a week
- Add even short periods of physical activity, like taking brisk walks at lunch, riding your bike to work, taking the stairs and playing a favorite sport
- Quit smoking
- Within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate start recovering
- Within three months, your blood circulation and lung function begin to improve
- Within a year, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker
- Make small changes to your diet
- Switch from sugary beverages to water
- Snack on air-popped popcorn or pretzels
- If you crave something sweet, try sherbet or candies with little or no fat, like jelly beans (always in moderation)
- Drink only in moderation
- For healthy women of all ages and men over 65, that means up to one drink a day
- For health men under 65, up to two drinks a day is okay
Age is a huge factor for weight and cholesterol levels — both tend to go up as you get older. Keep track of your BMI, or work to lower it if necessary, and be sure to see your doctor at least once a year to have your cholesterol levels checked. Here’s to your health!