Your health by numbers

10 vital numbers everyone should know

While you no doubt know your weight, height and shoe size, do you know the numbers that really count? In terms of health, there are certain numbers that can make all the difference. To give your health a quick assessment and help stay fit and healthy, check out these 10 important numbers everyone should know.

Cholesterol

There is no such thing as the "perfect" cholesterol level, as many other health factors also need to be taken into account when determining its risk. However, it is generally recommended that total cholesterol levels (taking into account both "good" HDL and "bad" LDL cholesterol) should be less than 5.0mmol/l for most healthy adults in order to maintain a healthy heart.

BMI

While many of us rely on weighing scales to assess what shape we are in, it is much more effective to use your BMI number, which also takes into account your height. To manually calculate your BMI, divide your weight (in kilograms) by your height (in inches), then divide this outcome by your height again. While there is some variation in thought of what classes as a healthy BMI, it is generally felt that, for the average adult, this is between 18.5 and 24.9.

Waist measurement

As well as knowing your BMI, another way to assess the risk of your weight on your health is by finding out your waist measurement. Studies have suggested that those who store fat around their middles are more likely to suffer from health problems such as heart attacks and diabetes, and the likelihood starts to increase in cases where waist circumference is above 32 inches (in women) or 37 inches (in men).

Calorie count

2000 is the number of calories the average healthy woman should consume in order to maintain her weight. For men this is 2500, while for the pregnant, elderly or those trying to lose weight this number will alter. Of the 2000 calories consumed by the average woman, no more than 25-35% of these should be from fat.

Alcohol units

According to government guidelines on alcohol, men should drink a maximum of 3-4 alcohol units a day (the equivalent of less than two pints of beer) and no more than 21 units a week, while women should drink no more than 2-3 units a day (the equivalent of a large 250ml glass of wine) and a maximum of 14 units a week in order to protect their short and long-term health.

Salt intake

6g is the recommended maximum amount of salt adults should consume on a daily basis in order to maintain a healthy heart. This is the equivalent of just one teaspoon of salt. However, with the unwaning popularity of salty foods such as crisps and ready-meals, the majority of people regularly exceed this, with the average person in the UK consuming 8.6g of salt a day.

Blood pressure

For those consuming high amounts of salt, this can also cause blood pressure to soar above the recommended reading of between 90/60 and 120/80 (the top number of this reading reflects the maximum pressure when your heart beats, while the bottom number refers to the lowest pressure when your heart relaxes between beats). Low blood pressure can cause dizziness, while high blood pressure can be dangerous and could lead to heart attacks or stroke.

Heart rate

The normal resting heart rate for a healthy adult is between 60 to 100 beats per minute. However, this can vary depending on age, physical fitness and medication. Those who are physically fit will normally have a lower heartbeat, while a slower or faster heart rate than average may be normal for the individual in question. However, if you find that your heart rate suddenly drops or rises to above or below the normal rate, it is advisable to get this checked out to rule out any health problems.

Blood sugar

A test for blood glucose levels is normally taken after a period of fasting, and a normal fasting blood sugar level is between 3.5 - 5.5 mmol/l. A blood glucose level above this may indicate diabetes; a condition in which the pancreas does not produce sufficient insulin to allow your body to use the glucose in your body, resulting in high blood sugar levels. However, a low blood sugar level (hypoglycaemia) can also be dangerous - particularly to those suffering from diabetes.

Sleep

Sleep is a controversial subject, with various studies suggesting different numbers of hours we need to keep us in good health. However, while it seems that it is best to go with what your body is telling you in terms of sleep, the general consensus seems to be that five hours of sleep is the minimum amount required to maintain energy levels, help with cell repair and maintain good heart health.

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