Numbers to Live By
Understanding key numbers—BMI, blood-sugar level—can lead to better health.
Healthy number: Less than 120/80 mmHg.
Blood pressure refers to the force of blood against the walls of your arteries when your heart beats (systolic pressure, the top number) and during rests between beats (diastolic pressure, the bottom) and is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). “The lower yours is, the better,” says Holly Thacker, M.D., director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at the Cleveland Clinic. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is 140/90 mmHg or higher. Hypertension is called “the silent killer” because it often has no symptoms and, left untreated, can lead to stroke, heart disease, kidney damage, and vision and memory problems. (If your top number is between 120 and 139 and the lower is between 80 and 89, you have prehypertension, which also carries risks.)
Have yours checked: Every time you see a doctor, including an ob-gyn. To lower your numbers, consume a low-fat, low-sodium diet; exercise often; maintain a healthy weight; limit alcohol intake; don’t smoke; and manage stress. Your doctor may prescribe a diuretic to flush out excess sodium. If that and lifestyle changes don’t work, other medicines, like an angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, may be prescribed.
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So maybe you can’t change your health overnight. But you can get a head start.