The importance of knowing your numbers

July 24, 2013 

One, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. Do you know your numbers?

I interviewed several people and asked them that very question. I started with some of my family members. I asked my daughter, and she replied, “IDK” (that means “I don’t know” in texting terms).

Next, I asked my granddaughter if she knew her numbers. She immediately said with excitement, “I can say my numbers to 100!” I started laughing. Out of the mouth of babes.

Then I asked one of my friends, Kathy, who is a nurse, “do you know your numbers?” She said, “Do you mean my cholesterol numbers?” She went on to say, “Yes, I know my numbers, and they are pretty good.”

Kathy was exactly right. I was talking about her cholesterol numbers including her A1C (average blood sugar) and blood pressure.

According to the American Diabetes Association, it’s important we know the A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. We can’t see what’s going on in our body on a daily basis the way we can see our outer appearance in the mirror. Knowing these numbers can give a person an idea of what might be going on in the body at a particular time.

First let’s start with the A1C. That number, simply put, tells what the average A1C has been during the past two or three months. Anything between 5.7 and 6.4 percent is considered pre-diabetes, and anything higher than 6.5 percent is considered diabetes.

The next number is the blood pressure level. Anything greater than 120/80 is considered an elevated or varying stage of high blood pressure, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and needs to be further investigated or checked by a health care provider.

The next number to look at is the total cholesterol level. The National Cholesterol Education Program says anything greater than 200 for the total cholesterol is considered elevated.

How do you find out what your numbers are? Have your health care provider check your A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol levels at your next visit. Your health care provider can evaluate each number to include all the different levels of cholesterol and provide the appropriate treatment.

The lower your numbers are, the better your chances are of preventing or delaying diabetes, a heart attack or stroke. According to various medical organizations, some things you can do to help decrease your numbers are:

• If you smoke, quit;

• Reduce salt and sodium in your diet;

• Follow a healthy eating pattern;

• Maintain a healthy weight and lose weight if needed;

• Be physically active, and exercise most days of the week (brisk walking for 30 minutes/day is a good goal). Before starting any exercise program, see or talk to your health care provider;

• Limit alcohol intake.

For more information on A1C levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, you may visit www.diabetes.org; www.nhlbi.org and www.nhlbi.nih.gov/about/ncep. This information does not take the place of seeing your health care provider or following your health care provider’s orders or directions. Only a physician can diagnose a person with pre-diabetes, diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol levels and provide or order the necessary or appropriate treatment. A health care provider can tell you what your numbers are.

Dairlyn Brown is a registered nurse and owner of SRT Professional Services LLC in Warner Robins. Contact her at dairlynbrown@gmail.com.

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