During these uncertain times, it is more important than ever to take charge of your health and these are 12 health stats you should be in the know about -- and we're guessing you might be in the dark about some of these.
Real Simple identified 12 statistics you should pay attention to and knowing the status of them may help you deal with other health issues as they arise.
Blood type: Being aware of your blood type is important because it determines one's position when giving and receiving transfusions. “Someone who is O-, and therefore without an A or B antigen or Rhesus protein, can donate to all blood types, but can only receive blood from someone else who is O-,” Alexandra Kreps, MD, an internist at Tru Whole Care, told Real Simple. “Conversely, someone who is AB+, and therefore without antibodies to cause a reaction with other blood types, can receive donations from all blood types, but only give to someone else who is AB+.” Additionally, certain blood types have been linked to a higher risk for certain health issues, like stomach ulcers, pancreatic cancer, dementia, and cognitive impairment. What to do: Ask your doctor to do an ABO typing, which is done with a simple blood test and will determine your blood type.
Blood pressure: Cardiovascular disease claims more lives in men and women than anything else. The American Heart Association says a normal blood pressure has a top number (systolic blood pressure) of less than 120 mmHg and a bottom number (diastolic blood pressure) of less than 80 mmHg. Blood pressure is elevated when the systolic readings range from 120-129 mmHg and the diastolic blood pressure is normal. Elevated blood pressure can lead to hypertension, and possibly a risk of atherosclerotic heart disease, heart attack, or stroke. What to do: Check your blood pressure at home or with your doctor and seek medical attention of you are experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness, weakness, change in vision, or difficulty speaking associated with hypertension.
Cholesterol levels: Knowing if you have high cholesterol is key to someone's overall health. “Cholesterol acts as building blocks for cells, certain hormones, and bile production in the liver, but an overabundance can lead to plaque accumulation on the walls of the arteries resulting in so-called hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis,” Dr. Michael J. Barber, medical director at Strata Integrated Wellness Spa, explains, noting total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dL and says anything above 240 is considered high. What to do: A blood test, performed once or twice a year can determine someone's levels and what course of action to take. Additionally, not smoking, exercising regularly, and eating healthy can also lower your levels.
Triglyceride levels: These are often called "bad cholesterol" and as these levels rise, someone's HDL (or good cholesterol) lowers and can lead to a buildup in the arteries and increase someone's risk for heart disease. What to do: These levels can be determined by your doctor and eating fewer simple carbohydrates can lower these levels.
Metabolism and thyroid levels: “Thyroid levels often decline as we age, beginning in our mid-30s,” Dr. Sean Bourke, the founder and chief medical officer at JumpstartMD and diplomat of the American Board of Obesity Medicine told Real Simple. “Even levels at the low end of the normal range of this hormone can lead to difficulty losing weight, decreased energy, diminished mood, ‘foggy-headedness,’ forgetfulness, feeling cold, constipation, or other symptoms, and can be associated with increased cholesterol, risk of heart disease, decreased heart function, and overall higher mortality.” What to do: It is suggested you undergo a panel of thyroid tests annually by your doctor beginning in your 40s to determine these stats and if treatment is needed.
Mouth health: What may be going on in your mouth can indicate what may be happening with the rest of your health. “Researchers have concluded that the bacteria found in plaque (the primary etiological factor causing gum disease) is linked to coronary disease and that people with periodontal disease are up to two times as likely to suffer a fatal heart attack and nearly three times more likely to suffer a stroke as those individuals without this disease,” Dr. Marc Lazare, cosmetic dentist and president of the Academy of Biomimetic Dentistry says, adding, “More and more studies are also showing gum disease can also make diabetes worse, especially if you are a smoker, slowing the flow of nutrients and the removal of harmful wastes and resulting in weakening the resistance of the gums and bone tissue to the spread of infection which, if ignored, can lead to many other serious health dangers.” What to do: Visit your dentist annually and make sure to brush twice daily preferably with an electric toothbrush, use a mouth rinse, and floss regularly. Also, things like smoking, chewing tobacco, and vaping can also affect the health of your mouth.
Irregular moles or skin issues: Dermatologist Dr. Steven Greenbaum says people should look for moles which "bear irregular features such as uneven borders and/or shifting in shape or color over time" which could be a sign of possible malignant melanomas. What to do: The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends seeing a dermatologist annually and also to always wearing sunscreen while outside, along with a wide-brimmed hat.
The shape of your spine: Scoliosis, the sideways curvature of the spine, affects 3 percent of Americans, and it can lead to issues like uneven hips, shoulders, prominent ribs, a shift of the waist, possible chronic back problems and loss of coordination and mobility. Scoliosis complications can also include lung and heart damage, difficulties breathing, and issues with how the heart pumps. What to do: If you believe you have scoliosis, it is suggested you see your doctor or a chiropractor about possible treatment options.
Headaches: These can common, but if they occur with other symptoms like loss of bowel control, blindness, facial drooping, arm or leg weakness, and loss of the ability to speak, understand language, or read, numbness or tingling of one side of the face, arm, or leg, it is suggested you speak with your doctor or a specialist. What to do: The best defense is tracking your headaches and noting the triggers, frequency, severity, duration, and location. Also, if you are having migraines or severe headaches more than once a week, speak with your doctor.
Blood glucose levels: A healthy range for blood glucose is 70-140 mg/dL, and this is important in order to protect your tissue from the possible damage of elevated blood glucose. “High blood glucose levels, also known as hyperglycemia, can cause inflammation, damaging vessels that supply blood to vital organs,” Dr. Robby Barbaro tells Real Simple. “A reading of 200 mg/dL or above signifies Type 2 diabetes, with sustained hyperglycemia leading to further complications such as heart disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease, neuropathy, retinopathy, fatty liver disease, PCOS, and many other chronic diseases.” What to do: This level can be tested at home with a blood glucose meter and eating less high-fat foods like red meat, chicken, and eggs, and more low-fat, plant-based, whole-foods can help improve your levels.
How your breasts feel: “All breasts have a lumpy feel to the tissue because of the unique pattern created by the distribution of milk-producing tissue and fatty elements,” breast surgeon Dr. Heather Richardson explains. “Some breasts are composed of more fat that can have a softer, more even feel that is less complicated. If you feel your breast tissue is soft and even, make sure it stays that way with a monthly breast exam. If you aren’t comfortable with the texture of your breast tissue, talk to your doctor to see where you are on the spectrum of hardness (density) or unevenness.” What to do: In order to track any changes, regular self-breast exams (the best time to check your breasts is right after your period) are important, and women between ages 40 and 70 should schedule yearly mammograms.
Know your health history: The experts stress that being aware of things like past health conditions, surgeries, allergies, vaccinations, and family health history will go a long way when taking charge of your health. What to do: Make sure you have access to all of your medical records and speak to your family about any reoccurring health issues in your extended family, this could help your healthcare provider better treat you in the future.