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Know Your Numbers: Your Life Depends On It!

Meghann Shannon working out, knowing her essential "health" numbers! (see related article)
Meghann Shannon working out, knowing her essential "health" numbers! (see related article)
Meghann Shannon, BMI, Heart Rate, Blood pressure

There are some extremely important numbers when it comes to assessing one's health. These numbers are critical in having the best quality of life one possibly can. Believe it or not, they are not hard to determine even though their importance is of extreme significance.

That aside, let's get started. There are three essential numbers I think every individual should know in regards to their own body/health. I would recommend another 7, but if you know these three, then you're at least on the right track!

1) BMI: Body Mass Index: The equation for one's BMI is mass (in lbs) divided by height (in inches) squared and that total multiplied by 703. For example, a young woman, weighing 115 lbs and who is 5'3 (63 inches) would have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 20.4. This would be considered under the "normal weight" category, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). To calculate your own BMI, using a quick online tool, click on this link and enter in your information on the National Institute of Health (NIH) website: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm

Remember, although one's Body Mass Index is a very efficient way to determine your overall health, it does NOT incorporate or include other factors that could be detrimental to your health. For example, it does not indicate one's blood pressure or cholesterol levels - only two of the many factors critical in assessing one's overall health.

2) Blood Pressure: According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), blood pressure can be described as the "force of blood pushing against the walls of one's arteries." The problem that blood pressure can present, is if the level of pressure increases above what is considered a normal level and remains at this unhealthy level. Having high blood pressure over an extended period of time has the potential to damage one's body in multiple various ways. You might be shocked to learn that 1 in just 3 individuals suffer or are living with high blood pressure in the United States.

The most effective way to calculate your own blood pressure would be at your doctor's office; however, if you are wanting to know immediately or don't think it is an issue, but would like to know immediately, you can go to your local pharmacy (I am certain you recall the chairs you see people sitting in for a few minutes and then numbers will appear on the screen). This little "chair" is, indeed, a device that was created to determine one's blood pressure (and also pulse rate (more about one's pulse rate is mentioned below)). The blood pressure of a normal individual is 120/60. This means one's systolic would be 120 or lower and his or her diastolic number would be less than 80. Furthermore, you have the option of purchasing your own blood pressure monitor, which they sell now at your local WalMart, Target, etc.

3) Pulse (or Heart) Rate: According to http://www.heart.org, one's heart rate (at rest) is the "heart pumping the lowest amount of blood you need because you’re not exercising". In other words, if you are simply sitting down in a calm state of mind (and assuming you are not ill in any way), a "normal" heart rate for you to have would be anywhere between 60 beats per minute and 100 beats per minute. Due to the fact that professional athletes are typically in exceptional shape, they tend to have lower pulse/heart rates at rest than the average individual. To make this simpler, someone in incredible shape has a heart in essentially "better" condition than the next person's and doesn't have to work as hard to do its job. Having an extremely high or low pulse rate could indicate a number of underlying issues that are important to discuss with one's physician. Knowing your resting heart rate could save your life! If you don't know the range yours is typically in, I suggest you do so...now!

Another TIP: Complete Blood Count: As I mentioned before, these are only three of many numbers I think is not only important, but vital in knowing when it comes to your health. Asking your primary care physician for a complete blood count (CBC) will give you the information needed to determine how your health is doing in regards to how well organs are functioning to even your cholesterol levels (the good and bad levels). A complete blood count can be a priceless tool to use when determining just how healthy you are and where you can and should improve. If it has been a while since your last checkup, I suggest you request a complete blood count be performed as soon as possible. These are done all of the time and are very inexpensive, especially if you don't mind taking the results home with you and figuring out what each category really means and how to "read" the results. There will already be notifications or "flags" if any of your results are out of the "normal" criteria - so, that certainly helps when going over your results.

In conclusion, if you are still clueless when it comes to these numbers, then it is time to make some changes! It is never too late and remember - your life might REALLY depend on it!

Here's to a life of great health and happiness!