Health Stats All Women Should Know

How would you rate your health? When life gets busy, our health is often one of the first things we ignore. Yet knowing basic information can help prevent many leading causes of death, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and stroke. Here are a few numbers you should know to keep track of your overall health.

#1 Blood Pressure

In general, blood pressure should fall under 120 over 80. These numbers represent systolic pressure (the force of blood against the arteries as the heart pumps) and diastolic pressure (the pressure between each heartbeat). If your systolic pressure is over 120 or your diastolic pressure is below 80, you may have hypertension (high blood pressure), which can lead to heart disease, stroke or kidney damage. Getting tested every two years is key for those with normal blood pressure or as your doctor orders if your levels are high.

#2 Cholesterol

Most people should aim for total cholesterol levels under 200. Higher levels have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems. Triglycerides should be under 150 mg/dl, including �good� cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein or HDL) which should be below 50 mg/dl for women and �bad� cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL) which ideally should be under 100. Start getting your cholesterol tested every five years around age 20, and then annually after age 45 or as directed by a physician.

#3 Waist Circumference/Body Mass Index

For optimal health, the general recommendation is to maintain a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 25. A range of 25 to 30 is considered overweight, and over 30 is considered obese. To figure out your BMI, multiply your weight in pounds by 703 and divide that figure by your height in inches squared. You can also visit the BMI calculator online.

Your BMI can be a helpful indicator of overall health, but because of variations in muscle tone and body type, it isn’t always accurate. Another useful number to know is your waist circumference because it takes into account dangerous belly fat. A healthy waist measurement is generally less than 35 inches for women.

#4 Blood Sugar

To minimize your risk of Type 2 diabetes, your fasting blood sugar levels should be under 100. If you fall between 100 and 125, you may have prediabetes and levels over 126 are indicative of diabetes, though follow-up tests are needed to confirm. Consider a diabetes screening if your blood pressure is higher than 135/80, you take medicine for high blood pressure or you notice other indicators.

#5 Preventative Testing Dates

Here are a few common health screenings and when you should have them done:

� First pap smear: 21, annually or every two years thereafter, depending on your health

� Breast self-exam: 20, once a month

� First mammogram: 50 (unless you are at high risk for breast cancer), followed by every one to two years for those with average risk

� First colonoscopy: 50 (earlier with a family history of colorectal cancer), and then every 10 years thereafter if tests are clear with no family history

� Bone density screening: 65, and then every five years thereafter

âÂ�¢ Mole screening: 30 (earlier with extensive sun exposure or family history of skin cancer), completed annually or twice a year if you’re at high risk

These are just some of the tests that can provide valuable information about your health. With any health concern, be sure to talk to your doctor to determine if additional precautions are necessary. Don’t ignore your stats because many diseases are preventable, and many more are curable if detected early.

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Dr. Carolyn Ross is an internationally known physician, author and speaker on addictions, obesity and eating disorders. She serves as a consultant to The Ranch�s eating disorder treatment program in Tennessee, maintains a private practice in Denver, is the author of The Binge Eating and Compulsive Overeating Workbook: An Integrated Approach to Overcoming Disordered Eating as well as The Joy of Eating Well and also hosts a weekly radio show, The Vital Life.


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