ARE YOUR NUMBERS IN THE HEALTH ZONE? – PART 1
Where do you stand in terms of your health? Not simply how you feel on a day to day basis; but are your actual numbers for blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides in a healthy zone? It is important to find out your numbers and know where you stand. If you are high in any of these four measurements, you often can’t feel the effects until it is too late. These four have been named the silent killers. The only true way to know your levels, is to get them tested. Below are some important numbers you will want to pay attention to:
1. BLOOD PRESSURE
Having high blood pressure forces your heart to work harder. High blood pressure increases your risks for heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and heart failure. You can have high blood pressure and never know it or feel it, so it is important to get it tested on a routine basis.
HEALTH ZONE: - To have 120/80 mm Hg and lower (for BOTH numbers), is considered to have healthy blood pressure.
WARNING ZONE: - Pre-hypertensive: If your first number (systolic blood pressure) is between 121-139 mm Hg and / or your second number (diastolic blood pressure) is between 81-89 mm Hg you are considered Pre-Hypertensive and need to start making some lifestyle changes.
DANGER ZONE: - High Blood Pressure or Hypertension: When either your systolic blood pressure is 140 mm Hg or greater; and / or diastolic blood pressure is 90 mm Hg or more; and / or if you are on high blood pressure medications; you are considered as having high blood pressure, and will need to work on lowering it.
Simple ways to lower your blood pressure:
Exercise – This is the best thing you can do. Even walking for at least 30 minutes each day can significantly reduce your blood pressure.
Water – Dehydration causes the blood to thicken, therefore increasing blood pressure. Being well hydrated can reduce blood pressure.
Limit Sodium - To half-teaspoon per day.
Increase Potassium - Eat foods that are high in potassium - bananas, spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, beans, and nuts. Potassium counteracts the effects of sodium.
Limit alcohol - To one drink or less per day.
Follow DASH - Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Diet: which is high in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and is low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol.
Medications – By all means, if you need to take high blood pressure medication, then do it. Many people who have adopted a healthier lifestyle (as listed above) can eventually reduce or eliminate their medications.
2. BLOOD SUGAR
Your body breaks down the food you eat into glucose, and your cells use that sugar for energy. When this process isn’t working properly, glucose builds up in the blood. Extra sugar in your bloodstream is a sign of diabetes, which is a disease that can harm every organ in your body and also damage your nerves and blood vessels.
The levels below have to do with your Fasting Blood Glucose Levels.
HEALTH ZONE: - Less than or equal to 100 mg/DL
WARNING ZONE: - Pre-Diabetes - Levels of 101 to 125 mg/DL point to prediabetes.
DANGER ZONE: - Diabetes - Anything above 125 mg/DL falls into the diabetic range.
Simple ways to lower your blood sugar:
Exercise Daily – Exercise helps your body use blood sugar for energy.
Cut Down on Starchy and Sugary Carbs - A lower-carb diet helps reduce blood sugar levels, prevent blood sugar spikes, and helps to control your blood sugar in the long run.
Eat More Often – Having smaller meals or grazing throughout the day helps to stabilize your blood sugar levels.
Reduce Your Stress - Hormones such as glucagon and cortisol are secreted during stress. These hormones cause blood sugar levels to rise, making the body more resistant to insulin.
Eat Low Glycemic Foods - Seafood, meat, eggs, oats, barley, beans, lentils, yams, blueberries, most fruits, greens and other non-starchy vegetables are all low on the glycemic index.
Quality Sleep – Sleep deprivation increases your cortisol levels and decreases your growth hormone. Both of these hormones play a huge role in your blood sugar count.
Trim Your Weight and Waistline - Even a 7% reduction in body weight can decrease your risk of developing diabetes by up to 58%. A measurement of 35 inches (89 cm) or more for women, and 40 inches (102 cm) or more for men, is associated with an increased risk of developing insulin resistance, high blood sugar levels, and type 2 diabetes. Keeping a trim waist positively affects your hormones and keeps diabetes at bay.
Too much cholesterol can lead to plaque buildup inside your blood vessels. Plaque causes your arteries to harden and narrow, which limits blood flow. These blockages can create a heart attack, or if the blockage is located in the brain, a stroke. There are three numbers to pay attention to: your total cholesterol (you want this number low); your LDL cholesterol (this is the “bad” cholesterol - you DEFINITELY want this number to be low); and your HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is known as the “good” cholesterol or the “artery scrubbers”. You want this number to be high.
Total blood cholesterol - lower than 200 mg/dL
LDL cholesterol - less than 100 mg/dL
HDL cholesterol - greater than 60 mg/dL (the higher the number the better!)
LDL cholesterol – between 101 mg/dL – 129 mg/dL
HDL cholesterol - between 40 mg/dL – 59 mg/dL
Total Cholesterol - equal to or greater than 200mg/dL
LDL cholesterol - equal to or greater than 130mg/dL
HDL cholesterol - equal to or less than 39mg/dL
Simple ways to lower your cholesterol:
Eliminate Trans Fats – Trans fats continue to raise your cholesterol levels. Trans fats are hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated oils, margarine, or most processed, most store bought cookies, cakes, crackers, chips, and treats.
Reduce Saturated Fats – These raise your overall cholesterol, particularity your LDL’s. Saturated fats include red meat, full fat dairy products, coconut oil, and lard.
Eat More Omega 3’s – Foods with omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, trout, herring, flaxseeds, chia seed, and walnuts increase your HDL cholesterol.
Eat more Fiber – Fiber helps to reduce cholesterol’s ability to absorb in your blood stream. Foods such as lentils, kidney beans, oatmeal, berries, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli are excellent sources of fiber.
Quit Smoking – This will help to improve your HDL cholesterol levels.
Exercise – This is the best of both worlds; with exercise you lower your LDL’s and raise your HDL’s.
Having a high level of triglycerides in your blood will increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood. When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn't use right away into triglycerides. The triglycerides are stored in your fat cells. If you regularly eat more calories than you burn, (particularly from high-carbohydrate foods), you likely have high triglycerides. Having high triglycerides combined with high LDL cholesterol speeds up the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
HEALTH ZONE — Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
WARNING ZONE — 150 to 199 mg/dL
DANGER ZONE — 200 to 499 mg/dL
EXTREME DANGER ZONE — 500 mg/dL or more
Simple ways to lower your triglycerides:
Exercise regularly. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most or all days of the week. Regular exercise can lower triglycerides and boost "good" cholesterol.
Avoid or Limit Sugar, Sweeteners, and refined carbohydrates. Sugar, sweeteners, fructose, and foods made with white flour greatly increase triglyceride levels in the body.
Reduce Your Calories. If you have mild to moderate hypertriglyceridemia, focus on cutting calories. Extra calories are converted to triglycerides and stored as fat. Reducing your calories will reduce triglycerides.
Eat Fatty Fish & Healthy Fats. Avoid trans fats or foods with hydrogenated oils or fats. Trade saturated fat for healthier fats such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Instead of red meat, eat fish high in omega-3 fat such as salmon and tuna twice a week.
Limit how much alcohol you drink. Alcohol is high in calories and sugar and has a particularly potent effect on triglycerides. If you have severe hyper-triglyceridemia, avoid drinking any alcohol.