With so much health advice in the news today, just thinking about what you should or should not be doing can be a dizzying prospect. Harvard doctors agree that health can be an overwhelming topic. But they say that if you have a handle on these four numbers, you can have a pretty good idea of where you stand and what to do about it.
- Your body mass index (BMI). Many people are overweight and don’t think they are. The health risks climb when you reach the overweight level. Here’s what they mean:
Underweight is a BMI of less than 18.5, and normal weight is a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9.
Overweight is a BMI of 25 to 29.9, and obesity is a BMI of 30 or over. If your calculation shows more than 24.9, it’s time to lose weight. To get a fast BMI rating, see nhlbisupport.com/bmi/bmicalc.htm. Just enter your height and weight.
- Your blood pressure. Ideally, it should be 120/80 or below. Starting at 115/75, the risk for heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular disease doubles with each increment of 20/10.
People with systolic blood pressure (the first number) of 120 to 139 or a diastolic of 80 to 90 are “prehypertensive.” Changes in diet and activity patterns can help prevent cardiovascular disease at this level.
- Your fasting glucose. If you have two fasting plasma glucose measurements of 126 mg/dL or greater, you have diabetes.
- Your LDL cholesterol level. Your bad cholesterol reading should be below 100, but 70 is better. Diet, exercise, and medications like statins, or all three, can lower your LDL, reducing your heart disease risk by about a third