• Know your health numbers


    Know health numbers

    It is important to know your numbers in terms of health numbers

    Continuing from my previous blog post on Love your heart, I indicating that during the month of August a few posts will focus on Women’s health issues.  Know your numbers is not exclusive to women and is of utmost importance to men as well.

    In that blog post I mentioned that one of the preventive measures for cardiovascular disease is to know your numbers.  Start monitoring your health as early detection can save your life.

    This made me wonder and a couple of questions popped into my mind.  Do we ever go for health screenings and do we actually know what the numbers of those screenings mean?  Should your doctor request that you have those screenings done, do you ever ask him/her what the importance are of those screenings?  If we do go for screenings of blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose or BMI; do you ask your doctor to explain those numbers to you in non-medical terms?

    Communication and asking questions is vital to determine if you are at risk of any disease.  Early detection of a disease need to pose the following questions to your health practitioner. What contributed to you developing this disease? Why he/she is prescribing certain medication? What the side effects of that medication can have on your life?

    Keeping all of this in mind, I decided to do some research on the different screenings and what those numbers stand for.  Information was obtained from my general practitioner, a representative at the Heart Foundation of South Africa as well as Diabetes SA before writing this post.

    Below is an explanation of each screening and what those numbers represent.

    Blood pressure

    Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood in the arteries that is needed to keep blood flowing through the body.

    Looking at the numbers and what does it mean when blood pressure is measure:

    The units used to measure blood pressure is mmHg – this is millimeters of mecury.

    The top number refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries during contraction of your heart muscle.  This is called Systolic pressure.

    The bottom number refers to the blood pressure when your heart muscle is between beats.  This is called Diastolic pressure.

    Or if you read it as per the listings that is below – systolic pressure is the first number followed by diastolic pressure which is the second number.

    According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation in South Africa

    Normal blood pressure range is between: 120/80 mmHg – 129/84 mmHg

    High blood pressure range is between: 140/90 and higher

    Low blood pressure range is from:  90/60 mmHG and lower

    High blood pressure or hypertension can lead to a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and glaucoma. High blood pressure often developed during pregnancy and if it does your doctor need to monitor the pressure regularly.

    Low blood pressure or hypotension deprives your body from enough oxygen which can lead to damage to the brain and heart.

    Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

    Headaches, nose bleeds, nausea and vomiting, insomnia

    Dietary changes:

    • Eat a healthy balanced diet,
    • limit the salt intake,
    • eliminate unhealthy saturated and tans fats,
    • include omega enriched foods in your diet.

    Symptoms of Low Blood Pressure

    Dizziness, fainting, blurred vision, lack of concentration, tiredness, nausea

    Dietary changes:

    • Eat a balanced diet including things like raisins, almonds and carrots,
    • increase your salt intake slightly,
    • drink lots of fluids but eliminate alcoholic beverages.


    Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all cells in your body.  Your liver produces all the cholesterol that your body need but cholesterol can also be found in foods. If you eat too many foods that are high in saturated fats it can make your blood cholesterol levels rise.

    LDL Cholesterol (Low-Density Lipoproteins) is a bad cholesterol and can lead to clogged arteries, heart disease and strokes.

    HDL Cholesterol (High-Density Lipoproteins) is a good cholesterol that protects the inner walls of the blood vessels and it fights off LDL cholesterol.

    Triglycerides in a type of fat found in the blood. When you eat, your body converts those calories it doesn’t need into triglyceride and it is stored in your fat cells.  Eating too much calories than what your body require and not exercising to work off those calories can lead to high triglyceride.

    As we now know the difference between cholesterol and triglyceride as explained above; both can’t dissolve in your blood stream and contribute to hardening and clogging of the arteries.

    Looking at the numbers and what does it mean when cholesterol is measure:

    The unit used to measure cholesterol and triglyceride level is mmol/L – this is millimoles per litre of blood.

    Cholesterol Reading

    • Below 5.0 mmol/L (Good cholesterol reading)
    • 0 – 6.2 mmol/L (Borderline high cholesterol reading)
    • Above 6.2 mmol/L (High cholesterol reading)

    Triglycerides Levels

    • Below 1.7 mmol/L  (Good triglyceride level)
    • 7-2.2 mmol/L  (Borderline high triglyceride level)
    • 3-5.6 mmol/L  (High triglyceride level)
    • Above 5.6 mmol/L  (Very high triglyceride level)

    If you have a family history of cholesterol or heart disease have your cholesterol checked every 6 months.

    Dietary changes:

    • Avoid saturated and trans fat foods which can be found in processed meats and foods, replace with unsaturated fats
    • Eat oily fish that is high in Omega 3, eat a variety of legumes (like beans, lentils),
    • Foods high in sugar should be eaten in moderation,
    • Watch the cholesterol levels in organ meats (kidneys and liver) as well as shellfish (prawns, calamari and shrimp)
    • Eat foods high in fibre
    • Eat lots of fruit and vegetables
    • Drink alcohol in moderation

    Lifestyle changes:

    • Quit smoking
    • Maintain a healthy weight
    • Incorporate exercise in your lifestyle

    Blood Glucose

    Your body cells rely on glucose for energy. You get glucose from foods. High blood glucose levels means that your body is not making or using enough of the hormone called “insulin”. Insulin is essential to carry glucose from your bloodstream into the cells where it is used for energy.

    Looking at the numbers and what does it mean when blood glucose is measure:

    The units used to measure blood glucose is mmol/L – this is millimoles per litre of blood.

    4mmol/L – 6mmol/L  (Normal blood glucose levels when fasting)

    Up to 8mmol/L (Blood glucose levels within 2 hours of eating)

    11mmol/L and above (Signs of diabetes)

    Similar to blood pressure, high blood glucose can also develop during pregnancy especially when expecting babies that are over 4kg.

    Symptoms of High Blood Glucose

    • Increase thirst
    • Low concentration levels
    • Headaches
    • Blurred vision
    • Frequent urination
    • Feeling tired and weak
    • Weight loss

    Lifestyle changes:

    • Eat a healthy diet
    • avoid deep fried foods, processed foods, dried fruit, sugar sweetened beverages, trans fats
    • Maintain a healthy weight
    • Exercise
    • Control stress levels


    Treatment for insulin resistance may require medication in tablet form or insulin injection.

    Body Mass Index (BMI)

    You normally stand on the scale and weigh yourself to determine your weight in kilograms but do you know what your BMI is.   The BMI is measured to determine your weight status – whether your weight is healthy, overweight, obese or underweight.

    Being overweight increases your risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglyceride and diabetes.  It can lead to heart disease, certain cancers, arthiritis and psychological problems.

    BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms with your height.

    Looking at the numbers for BMI:

    Underweight BMI range:  under 18.5

    Healthy BMI range:  18.5 – 25

    Overweight BMI range: 25 – 30

    Obese BMI range: over 30

    Waist Circumference

    Waist circumference is an indication of excess fat around the waist.  The fat around your weight matters as this fat is different to those found in the rest of your body.  This fat is call visceral fat and it releases substances that can increase cholesterol, triglyceride,  blood pressure, blood glucose levels.


    Less than 80 cm (Ideal)

    80 – 87 cm (Increased risk for cardiovascular disease)

    88cm or more (High risk for cardiovascular disease)


    Less than 94 cm  (Ideal)

    94 – 101 cm (Increased risk for cardiovascular disease)

    102 cm or more (High risk for cardiovascular disease)

    Related posts Love your heart and Are you covered

    Leave a Reply