As lifestyle-related health conditions become more prevalent, knowing a few key numbers can help Laborers improve and maintain good health. Blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose (blood sugar) and body mass numbers are bellwethers for serious, chronic problems like heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and a rash of other physical ailments. The more elevated the number, the more likelihood of health issues and related medical expenses. Chronic diseases lead to seven out of ten deaths among Americans each year. These conditions are the fallout of personal numbers that are too high. Once you understand their significance, you can take steps to keep your personal numbers where they belong.

The personal numbers that everyone should know are:

  • Blood Pressure Desirable: 120/80 or below
  • Cholesterol Desirable: less than 200 mg/dL
  • Glucose (blood sugar) Normal: 99mg/dL and below
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) Normal: 18.5 – 24.9

Heredity sometimes plays a role in driving up personal numbers, but more often, lifestyle is the culprit. A recent study finds that lifestyle is responsible for over 87 percent of health care claims. Poor lifestyle choices and the elevated personal numbers that result increase the likelihood for chronic diseases and higher health coverage expenses.

Common Causes of Chronic Disease that Contribute to High Personal Numbers

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four health risk behaviors — lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption — lead to elevated personal numbers and much of the illness, suffering and early death caused by chronic diseases.

  • More than one-third of all adults do not meet recommendations for aerobic physical activity based on the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Twenty-three percent report no leisure-time physical activity at all in the preceding month.
  • In 2007, less than 22 percent of high school students and only 24 percent of adults reported eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
  • More than 43 million American adults (approximately one in five) smoke.
  • In 2007, 20 percent of high school students in the United States were current cigarette smokers.
  • About 30 percent of adult current drinkers report binge drinking (consuming four or more drinks on an occasion for women, five or more drinks on an occasion for men) in the past 30 days.
  • Nearly 45 percent of high school students report consuming alcohol in the past 30 days, and over 60 percent of those who drink report binge drinking within the past 30 days.

According to The American Heart Association, when people know their numbers, they are more inclined to stop behaviors that lead to poor health. Everyone can rattle off dozens of phone numbers, addresses, birthdays and anniversary dates. Personal numbers for wellness are no less important.

Ask your health care provider about appropriate tests for learning your personal numbers and discuss the results. Awareness contributes to longer, healthier lives and lower health care costs.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]