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How Does Your Health Add Up?

Sometimes it’s hard to measure personal health. Luckily, risk factors like blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight can all be calculated. Although you can’t control some factors, like age and family health history, keeping an eye on these four key numbers will help you manage your risk of major chronic disease. Note: the following goals are estimated for adults under 40 years old.

BLOOD PRESSURE. The statistics are daunting: According to the American Heart Association, one in three adults has high blood pressure. To make things more complicated, hypertension (i.e. elevated blood pressure) is often symptomless although the consequences — like heart disease or stroke — can be fatal. Regular physical activity will help to lower that number, as will limiting stress, salt intake, alcohol, and tobacco — even secondhand smoke. GOAL: Strive for less than 120/80. (Get checked biannually and more frequently if your family has a history of high blood pressure.)

BLOOD SUGAR. Fatigue, thirst, and weakness are just a few of the short-term symptoms of high blood sugar. Over the long term, these symptoms can indicate more serious conditions like diabetes and kidney failure. So manage what you can control, especially exercising at least thirty minutes a day. GOAL: Strive for a score under 100. (Talk to your doctor about whether you should get your glucose levels checked.)

CHOLESTEROL. The only way to detect cholesterol, a waxy substance found in the bloodstream and cells, is through a blood test. When cholesterol levels are high, cholesterol will narrow blood vessels, potentially leading to heart attack or stroke. One key way to combat cholesterol is through a heart-healthy diet: Load up on veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean meats and poultry, and even one-percent dairy products. Also, quit smoking and work out more days than not. GOAL: Strive for total cholesterol less than 200. (Check levels every five years or more often if your doctor recommends it.)

BODY COMPOSITION. Your body mass index (BMI) is a reliable indicator of body fatness and fitness because it measures your weight in relationship to your height. GOAL: The normal BMI range is 18.5 to 24.9. Another factor to consider is waist circumference, which should not exceed 35 inches for women. But, remember, BMI and weight circumference aren’t the be all and end all of health, they’re just indicators. Talk to your doctor about what’s best for your body. (Check your BMI and waist circumference during your annual check-up.)

Find more information on how Independence Blue Cross can be a part of your plan for health and wellness.

Sponsor content is created for IBX by Philadelphia magazine as a marketing collaboration with IBX. This material is intended for reference and information only and should not be used in place of advice from a doctor or suitable qualified healthcare professional.