USING the scales is often as far as many of us go with keeping an eye on our bodies.
But those dreaded numbers only tell you a fraction of the story.
Ella Walker has five simple checks that will run the stats on your body . . . and reveal what you can do for a health boost.
If you’re concerned about any of these checks, or your health, always speak to your GP.
JUST to confuse things, there is “good” and “bad” cholesterol, a fatty substance found in your blood.
The good stuff makes you less likely to have heart problems or a stroke, while the bad stuff ups your risk.
Optimum number: You want your total cholesterol level to be five or below.
How you check it: You can’t see cholesterol, it can only be checked via a blood test.
Ask your GP for a test if you are 40-plus and have not had one, are overweight or high cholesterol or heart problems run in your family.
Dr Rachel says: “Having high cholesterol levels in your blood speeds up the formation of plaque in your blood vessels.
“It increases your risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, heart attack, vascular dementia and peripheral vascular disease.
“If your cholesterol is raised, it can be managed with lifestyle changes or medications such as statins.”
PUMP IT UP
HIGH blood pressure, also called hypertension, is tricky to spot but increases your risk of stroke and heart attack. Around a third of British people have it.
Optimum number: Ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.
High blood pressure is considered 140/90mmHg or higher (150/90mmHg or higher if you are over the age of 80).
But everyone is different and what’s low or high for you might be normal for someone else.
How you check it: Get tested at your GP surgery, or home kits are available from pharmacies.
Dr Rachel says: “High blood pressure is frequently without symptoms but causes damage in several organs and increases your risk of stroke and heart attack.
“By getting your blood pressure checked at least every five years over the age of 40, we can treat it and reduce organ damage.”
IT’S normal to have a crash after eating a huge slab of chocolate or bag of sweets.
But hyperglycemia is when you have too much sugar in your blood. It usually affects those with diabetes.
Optimum number: According to Nice – the body that gives health guidance and advice – for people who don’t have diabetes, normal blood sugar levels are: Between 4.0 and 5.4 mmol/L (72 to 99 mg/dL) when fasting. Up to 7.8 mmol/L (140 mg/dL) two hours after eating.
How you check it: People with diabetes can do home tests, otherwise your GP will likely do a finger-prick check.
Dr Rachel says: “High blood glucose levels while fasting or after food indicate your body cannot control blood sugar and you might have diabetes.
“Before you reach the type-2 diabetes levels, your sugars can be slightly high in a pre-diabetes phase.
“This is a warning stage and can be reversed with lifestyle changes and diet.”
WEIGH TO GO
WORRIED about carrying a bit of extra flab? The body mass index (BMI) indicates if you are a healthy weight given your height.
How you check it: Put your numbers in on the NHS’s online calculator at nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/bmi-calculator.
Optimum number: According to the NHS, the ideal BMI for most adults is in the 18.5 to 24.9 range.
If you are:
Below 18.5, you’re in the underweight range
Between 18.5 and 24.9, in the healthy weight range
Between 25 and 29.9, you are in the overweight range
Between 30 and 39.9, you’re in the obese range
GP Dr Rachel Ward says: “Though BMI is one way of measuring if we are a normal weight for our height, a high BMI often indicates you are overweight and is associated with increased risk of disease such as diabetes.
“A low BMI shows you are underweight, which may represent a poor diet or an underlying illness.”
IN THE MIDDLE
BELLY fat can be a major red flag for your health.
Your waist measurement is a good indicator of how much fat is around your middle and your internal organs, which is linked to heart disease and diabetes.
Optimum number: An adult’s waist circumference should be less than half their height.
How you check it: Grab yourself a tape measure. Place it around your tummy, midway between your ribs and the top of your hips, just above your belly button. Breathe out naturally and note the measurement. Do it twice to be really sure.
Dr Rachel says: “If you have a waist circumference of more than 31.5in in women, 35in in Asian men and 37in in white and black men, you are at significantly higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes.
“That’s a very quick and easy way to assess your own risk.”