Know your numbers

Do you "know your numbers?" What are your levels or test results? This is the time of year when we all get concerned about
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010


Do you "know your numbers?" What are your levels or test results? This is the time of year when we all get concerned about our health, and "knowing your numbers" is one way you can begin to improve your health.

One number that concerns everyone is cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that occurs naturally in all parts of your body. Your body needs some cholesterol to function properly, but if you have too much in your blood, it can stick to the walls of your arteries. When that happens it is called plaque, and it can narrow or even block your arteries. Cholesterol is further classified into HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol.)

HDL actually helps clean fat and cholesterol from arteries, while LDL deposits cholesterol in your arteries, which can cause them to clog. There are usually no signs or symptoms of high cholesterol, but it can increase your risk of heart disease.

A normal total cholesterol level is less than 200, with the desirable level at 150 - 160. Normal HDL for males is greater than 45 and for women is greater than 50. Normal LDL is less than 100. Another number you should know is your triglycerides. Triglycerides are another type of fat found in the bloodstream and fat tissue. Normal triglyceride level is less than 150.

It is important to know your blood sugar numbers as well. Normal blood sugar level is less than 100; 100-125 is considered to be pre-diabetes. You should be aware of your blood sugar level, and if you are diabetic, it needs to be monitored on a regular basis with your family physician.

It is also important to know what your blood pressure is -- another risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Blood pressure is the force created as your heart pumps blood and moves it through your blood vessels. What happens when your blood pressure is too high? Your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your blood vessels, and it can cause your blood vessels to become damaged and thickened. High blood pressure is the "silent killer." You can have high blood pressure for a long time without any symptoms, but during that time it can be damaging your blood vessels and heart. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. High normal is 120-139/80-89 and high blood pressure is anything 140/90 or higher.

Now that you know some important numbers to be aware of, how can you find out what your numbers are? One way is to have a physical at your family physician's office. He/she can order lab work and other tests, and gather information that will help him/her determine how healthy you are. Another way is to participate in a community health screening coordinated by the Community Outreach Department at Firelands Regional Medical Center. The first screening of the year will be 7-11 a.m. Jan. 26 at the Mylander Conference Center. Free valet parking will be available for screening participants on the morning of the screening.

Screenings offered will include: comprehensive metabolic profile, which includes a cholesterol profile, liver, kidney and thyroid function tests, for $20 (12-hour fast required, water allowed); comprehensive metabolic profile with complete blood count for $25 (12-hour fast required, water allowed); complete blood count alone for $5; hemoglobin A1C (a test for diabetics currently in a treatment regimen) for $10; prostate-specific antigen (PSA) for $7; bone density test for women over 30 to check for risk of osteoporosis $20; pulmonary function test $3; and carotid dopscan screen to check for blockage in the carotid arteries (a risk factor for stroke) for $30 -- must pre-register for this test, limited times available.

Blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, and body composition analysis are all offered free of charge. Information about hospital services will also be available that day. Once you get your screening results, it will be important for you to meet with your family physician to discuss them and see if you need treatment. Contact the Community Outreach Department at 419-557-7410.