January 14, 2019

Karen Gorby: Knowing Your Numbers: How a Few Important Digits Can Guide Effective Self-Care

By Karen Gorby
President/CNO, Angel Medical Center

The holiday season has come to an end and now it’s time to make plans for 2019 – that includes learning about ways that we can influence our health. Simply “knowing your numbers” puts you at an advantage when it comes to lowering your risk for a host of serious conditions. The numbers we’re referring to are readings that make a pivotal difference to your health: cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, body mass index (BMI) and blood glucose level. This is a very serious topic – a study published November 28 in the journal Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders revealed that less than 13% of Americans are in good metabolic health, defined as having optimal levels of blood glucose, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, blood pressure, and waist circumference, without the need for medications.

Everyone at Angel Medical Center works to empower patients so they can partner with their primary care physicians to make well-informed lifestyle choices. This, in turn, leads to lowered risk for many conditions, as well as to overall better health. Diabetes is one of Macon County’s top health challenges, and learning your blood glucose level is the most important piece of information you can be armed with in terms of knowing whether you’re at risk for diabetes, or if you have prediabetes. This number will indicate to patients and their caregivers whether lifestyle changes, like a balanced diet or increased activity, are necessary.

The fact that obesity is at epidemic levels in the United States proves that excess pounds challenge many of us. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that as of 2015-16, nearly 40 percent of Americans were obese, and this does not include the merely overweight. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for everything from diabetes and heart disease to cancer. Getting rid of excess weight with a well-informed and medically supervised combination of healthy eating and exercise is the way to go; results are much longer lasting and better for your body than fad diets and difficult-to-maintain programs. BMI, or body fat measurement, is closely related to weight as well, and a healthy BMI is in the range of 18.5 to 24.9. A person who falls within this BMI range is likely to be at a healthy weight as well.

Blood pressure is a critical health number to learn, and in 2017, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association updated recommendations for healthy blood pressure. A normal blood pressure is now considered to be under 120/80. A high blood pressure reading puts one at risk for heart disease, stroke and even kidney damage. Heart disease and stroke are conditions whose effects are so serious and long-term that they require an array of rehabilitative services for survivors. Maintaining healthy blood pressure can significantly lower your chances of experiencing one of these conditions.

Most people know that high “bad” cholesterol and low “good” cholesterol are big contributors to heart disease. Awareness of these numbers means that patients can either work to lower their cholesterol through diet and exercise, or speak with their physician if they have a greater likelihood of high cholesterol due to genetic factors. If this is the case, their physician can prescribe one of the many cholesterol-lowering medications on the marketplace. These measures can lower the risk for heart disease, the No. 1 killer of Americans.

I encourage readers to prioritize learning your numbers this month. Armed with this knowledge, you can work with your primary care physician to learn what steps you can take to stay healthy all year long in 2019, and for many years to come. If you don’t currently have a primary care provider, please visit missionhealth.org/bestlife or call 828-213-3222.

Karen S. Gorby, RN, MSN, MBA, CENP, FACHE, is the President/Chief Nursing Officer of Angel Medical Center. Gorby is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). For nearly three decades, she has served hospitals and health systems in Ohio before assuming her role at Angel Medical Center. Gorby received her MSN from Saint Joseph’s College in Standish, Maine, and her MBA from Wright State University in Fairborn, Ohio.

To learn more about Angel Medical Center, please visit angelmed.org.