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HEALTHY LIVING — As we age, life becomes a numbers game

This week’s column is dedicated to the senior crowd, those of us who have reached the summit of the mountain of life. Have you noticed that the older we get, the more paperwork there is to complete? Even if you are computer literate, there are a lot of forms to get us what we need, as far as insurance and medications.

And numbers, all of a sudden, are very important to our doctors. They want blood work every few months to keep tabs on these numbers. And if you are having some issues with blood sugar, you get to test it at home to get those numbers anywhere from 2 to 7 times a week.

Let’s take a look at some of these numbers and find out what they are and where they should be. First, ALWAYS check with your doctor. Not everyone has the same normal. Not all doctors adhere to standardized charts for those important numbers. Depending what medications you are on, your numbers could vary greatly.

Blood Pressure (BP) — Your doctor may want you to monitor this at home a couple of times a week, his staff will certainly take your reading at each office visit. It’s expressed as a measurement with two numbers, with one number on top (systolic) and one on the bottom (diastolic), like a fraction. For example: 120/80 mm Hg. The top number refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries during the contraction of your heart muscle. This is called systolic pressure. The bottom number refers to your blood pressure when your heart muscle is between beats. This is called diastolic pressure. Both numbers are important in determining the state of your heart health. A normal reading would be any blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg and above 90/60 mm Hg in an adult. No medications are necessary for slightly elevated blood pressure. But this is when you should adopt healthier lifestyle choices. A balanced diet and regular exercise can help lower your blood pressure to a healthy range and help prevent elevated blood pressure from developing into full-fledged hypertension. Any readings above or below should be brought to your doctor’s attention.

A1C — Tests measure average blood glucose over the past two to three months. So even if you have a high fasting blood sugar, your overall blood sugar may be normal, or vice versa. A level of 5.7 to 6.4 percent indicates prediabetes. People with diabetes have an A1C level of 6.5 percent or above. If you’re in the early stages of diabetes, small changes in lifestyle can make a big difference and even put your diabetes in remission. Losing a few pounds or starting an exercise program can help. For those who have had prediabetes or diabetes for a long time, higher A1C results may be a sign that you need to start on medication or change what you’re already taking. You may also need to make other lifestyle changes and monitor your daily blood glucose more closely.

Blood Sugar/Finger Pricks — People who are monitoring or managing their diabetes prick their finger using a glucometer for daily testing. The most common monitoring is done fasting, before breakfast and should range under 70-99mg/dl, with no diabetes. Diabetics should range between 80/130 mg/dl. Or, test 2 hours after eating and range should be under 140 mg/dl for non-diabetics and under 180 mg/dl for diagnosed diabetics. There are variables depending on age, personal history, complications, and overall health.

LDL/HDL Cholesterol and Triglyceride levels — Cholesterol is a fatty substance made by your body and found in certain foods. Your body needs some cholesterol to function properly, but having too much (high cholesterol) puts you at risk for having a heart attack or stroke. The extra cholesterol that isn’t used by your body builds up in blood vessel walls, causing blockages. Good levels are less than 200: HDL at 40 or higher, LDL less than 100, and Triglycerides less than 149. Many times, unless genetics are involved, simple changes in diet and adding regular exercise can bring elevated levels down to normal levels.

That is just a brief list and explanation of the most common numbers you may be monitored for. In coming weeks, we will explore each one a little more in depth.

In the meantime, let’s all pay a little more attention to what we are fueling our bodies with and get out there and move a little bit more. Stay healthy, my friends.

Jody Holton writes about healthy living for The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at jholton3@gt.rr.com