Health 101: Healthy People Know Their Numbers

Volante médico con un tubo de sangre y una jeringaWhether you are 300lbs. 150lbs, an athlete or couch potato the most important aspect of your health is knowing your numbers. You may have heard that you can be overweight and still be healthy. That’s true, to a certain extent. The amount of fat on your body isn’t a sole indicator of your health level. That is not to advocate for having excessive fat however. The point is someone who is overweight may have great numbers and is very active. There are all sorts of reason why the fat isn’t burning – hormones, thyroid disorder, etc.

A great first step to your health plan is to know your numbers. Even if you are far down your path of health and wellness, you should check in with your numbers. I do it every year via a blood test and annual visits to my doctors. It’s good to check in. Here are the numbers by the numbers:


Blood Pressure

As your heart beats your pressure rises with each contraction and lowers when it relaxes. Your blood pressure should be monitored regularly as it can change relatively quickly in response to what you do to your body. Several factors impact blood pressure such as stress, diet, genetics, and lifestyle. The cardiovascular system is one of the most important and well designed systems of the body. Blood pressure is measured with two numbers. The top number is systolic, the amount of pressure that blood exerts on arteries and vessels while the heart is beating. The bottom number is diastolic, the pressure that is exerted on the walls of the various arteries around the body in between heart beats when the heart is relaxed. It’s important to maintain pressure…the higher the number the more force exerted against the walls of your vessels. The pressured is measured as mmHG meaning millimeters of mercury. Normal or desired blood pressure is lower than 120mmHg/80mmHg. Here are guidelines for blood pressure accoring to the American Heart Association:

Blood Pressure
mm Hg (upper #)
mm Hg (lower #)
Normal less than 120 and less than 80
Prehypertension 120 – 139 or 80 – 89
High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 1
140 – 159 or 90 – 99
High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 2
160 or higher or 100 or higher
Hypertensive Crisis
(Emergency care needed)
Higher than 180 or Higher than 110

You can get your blood pressure measured at almost any pharmacy, grocery store, or you can purchase a home monitor. Consistent high blood pressure can lead to all sorts of health issues, including stroke. There are many, many options out there. I use one by Withings that hooks up to my iPad and uploads the information to a website.

Heart Rate

This is pretty self explanatory – how fast your heart beats. You should now your heart rate because it’s an indication of how hard your heart is working. Many factors influence your heart rate such as activity level, stress, body size, body position, air temperature, etc. Your heart rate will fluctuate quite easily depending on any number of factors. If you’re running your rate will obviously be high, sleeping it’s low. Your resting heart rate should be between 100 and 60 beats per minute. When it’s above 100 (resting) that’s called tachycardia, below 60 at rest is bradycardia. When you’re exercising you should calculate your target heart rate for building endurance or burning fat. If you’re new to working out your rate will start off very high when you workout. You can find out your heart simply by feeling your pulse and counting beats for 15 seconds and multiplying that number by 4.


Glucose/Blood Sugar Levels

This is the key indicator of diabetes. Diabetes is a devastating disease, type II diabetes is primarily preventable and reversible. Know the facts about the “sugar”. Normal range for fasting blood sugar is 70 to 100 milligrams per deciliter. Unfortunately, measuring blood sugar levels isn’t an exact science. It can very depending on activity level and diet. You can find out your levels by getting a blood test and consulting with a physician to understand your results.


This is the good, bad and ugly. Your body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs, but it is found in foods from animals (milk, eggs, meat). Good cholesterol, HDL, keeps bad cholesterol, LDL, in check. LDL can get lodged in your vessels and creates dangerous blockages. The desired level of total cholesterol is less than 200 mg/dl. It’s important to make sure the ratio of HDL to LDL is good. There are plenty of people who are active and have high levels of HDL and LDL, but the ratio is right. This can be driven by genetics. Of course regular activity, even brisk walking, can raise HDL. Also in this category are triglycerides. Triglyceride is the most common type of fat in the body. Many people who have heart disease or diabetes have high triglyceride levels. Normal triglyceride levels vary by age and sex. A high triglyceride level combined with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol seems to speed up atherosclerosis (the buildup of fatty deposits in artery walls). Atherosclerosis increases the risk for heart attack and stroke. Less than 100 mg/dl is an optimal number.

Other Numbers – Weight, Body Fat, Waist in Inches

Young Woman Measuring Waist

You should of course know your weight, but also your percentage of body fat. Muscle weighs more than fat. Two people can both weigh 170lbs, but can have very different body fat compositions. As you workout and build muscle, you may see the scale doesn’t move as much. Another factor to look at is the inches around your waist. The more inches the higher the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. The ideal waist size for women is 32.5″ and 35″ for men. Measuring inches is also a great way to mark weight-loss progress in conjunction with weight and body fat percentage.

These numbers are just guidelines. You should consult a physician to know your numbers and how best to deal with anything out of the ordinary. Always consult a physician before beginning a workout regimen. Knowing your numbers is the first step and an on-going practice. These numbers can be effected as we age or by genetics. However, genetics is never an excuse. Think of it this way, genetics loads the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger. 

I’m just keeping it new.

6 Thoughts to “Health 101: Healthy People Know Their Numbers”

  1. […] NEVER be used as an excuse to neglect your body. You can be 50 pounds overweight and have good health statistics. Exercise doesn’t have to be like a prison sentence, just get your body […]

  2. […] Take care of your health – while your generation is expected to have a shorter lifespan than your parents you can still turn that around. Obesity is the scourge of the 21st century.  It’s estimated that we spend more on obesity-related diseases than on military defense. That’s amazing given the number of conflicts the United States is currently engaged in around the world. Black women are leading the way in this statistic. One in three Black women are obese or overweight. The leading cause of death among Black women is heart disease. These conditions are mostly preventable. It’s not about your dress size, it’s about knowing your numbers. […]

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  4. […] I completed all of my annual exams – eye, dental, and lady parts. My weight is holding steady, haven’t progressed toward my goal weight. However, my numbers are good! […]

  5. […] over age 45 are prescribed statin drugs as a means to help prevent heart disease as a result of high cholesterol. The reality is these drugs only benefit one percent of the population and chances are as as a […]

  6. […] over age 45 are prescribed statin drugs as a means to help prevent heart disease as a result of high cholesterol. The reality is these drugs only benefit one percent of the population and chances are as a black […]

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