Health Literacy Month: Do You Know Your Numbers?

When it comes to your health, the numbers game can be confusing. Patients hear their numbers for blood pressure, weight and even diabetes that are critical in determining one’s health. But how often do medical professionals really explain what these numbers mean and how the numbers affect a person’s health? Nicole Florence, MD, medical director and bariatrician at Memorial Weight Loss & Wellness Center, shares a rundown of common numbers and what they indicate:

  • Blood Pressure. Your blood pressure consists of two numbers. The top number (systolic pressure) refers to the pressure inside the heart as it pushes out blood from its chamber into the rest of the body and its organs. The lower number (diastolic pressure) refers to the pressure level when the heart is relaxed after its work. A healthy blood pressure is considered less than 120/80. As these numbers creep higher, stiffness of blood vessels in the heart, brain and kidney can result. Higher numbers can also cause weakness of the heart muscle itself. This is why high blood pressure can cause a higher risk for stroke, heart disease and kidney disease.
  • Body Mass Index (BMI). This number takes in account your height and weight to describe a person’s risk for other diseases. For example, a 5-foot tall person who is 200 pounds has more excess weight in proportion than a person who is 6-foot tall and 200 lbs. More excess weight brings a higher risk for diabetes, heart disease and sleep apnea. A BMI in the 18-24 range is considered healthy but can vary depending on the amount of muscle a person has. Click here to calculate your BMI.
  • Hemoglobin A1C. This is a blood test with a finger stick or regular blood draw. The test reviews red blood cells for any extra layer of sugar. The more extra sugar present can provide information to help diagnose diabetes ( >6.5) or future risk of diabetes (5.7 – 6.4) It is also used to help manage diabetes with a goal of <7. Click here to determine your risk for prediabetes.

Memorial Weight Loss & Wellness Center offers telehealth options and can help you better understand common test result numbers that indicate level of health.