Becky Carter: It’s a Numbers Game: How Knowledge of Four Key Health Readings Impacts Your Disease Risk and Overall Health

By Becky Carter
Chief Executive Officer/Chief Nursing Officer, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital

If you don’t know where you stand, you don’t know where you’re going. This phrase holds especially true in healthcare, particularly as it pertains to each individual’s overall health. Clinicians tell their patients routinely to “know their numbers,” but what does this actually mean?

There are four basic health readings that indicate much about your overall health, and they can all be boiled down to a few digits:

Knowing these numbers is so important because they’re all linked to your risk factors for certain serious health conditions, all of which are being diagnosed at epidemic levels in Americans.

In the last several years, the range for a blood pressure that’s considered normal changed from 140/90 to 120/80, so it’s important that when you get a reading, you’re putting it in the context of the updated guidelines. One’s blood pressure is significant because high blood pressure raises your risk of stroke, heart attack, and kidney disease. The condition runs in families, but there’s a lot you can do to manage it, including eating a balanced, healthy diet, keeping physically active, quitting smoking if you do, managing your stress, and taking blood pressure medications if necessary.

Your BMI reading is another pretty simple calculation that lets you and your physician know whether you are overweight or obese, both conditions that put you at risk for everything from heart disease and stroke to some cancers and diabetes. Your BMI is determined by using a mathematical formula, and the final number takes not only your weight into account, but your height and build as well.

A healthy BMI range is 18.5 to 24.9, a BMI that indicates you’re overweight is 25 to 29.9, and a range that defines obesity is 30 or above. Again, effective weight control strategies include maintaining a balanced diet, getting daily physical exercise, and making sure you get enough rest.

Since diabetes affects many of our community members, it’s good to know your blood glucose level, and that can be checked at your doctor’s office. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 84 million Americans have prediabetes, and 90 percent are unaware of it. That’s alarming. Having a conversation with your primary care physician at your annual physical may lead you to decide to get bloodwork done and check your blood glucose level.

If you’re on the way toward prediabetes or already have it, you can take steps now to reverse it, and the “biggies” are the same ones we’ve mentioned here previously – diet and exercise. Remember, to be active, you don’t have to be a super athlete, you just need to move for 30 minutes, five days a week, and activities like walking, gardening, and even housework (sorry about that) count.

The final important number to be aware of that’s probably familiar to you is cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is the favorable kind that is protective of your arteries, while LDL is the type that can be harmful and clog them; you want your HDL to be high and LDL to be low. Diet, exercise, and if necessary, medications can help to lower your overall cholesterol if it’s too high.

Although your genetics can exert some control over these numbers, there’s a lot you can do to keep them in check and ensure that your risk of many diseases is as low as possible. Of course, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital and our providers are here to support you on your journey toward better health in many ways, and the best place to start is finding and building a relationship with a primary care physician. Here’s to your health and to winning your “numbers game!”

Becky Carter

Rebecca W. Carter, MSN, RN, FACHE, is Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine. Carter has served in senior hospital management for over 20 years and previously served as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard, also a part of the Mission Health system.

Ms. Carter is board certified in healthcare management and is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE). A native of North Carolina, she holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ms. Carter is currently a resident of Burnsville.