BMI: Body mass index uses your height to gauge if your weight is healthy, but even that’s not foolproof. Your body type, ethnic group, and muscle mass can change the meaning of the number. For example, if you start exercising regularly, you may gain weight as you build muscles. When you’re trying to lose weight to be healthier, there are other numbers you should pay attention to, too, instead of focusing only on the scale.
Breathe out, and wrap a tape measure around yourself midway between your hip bone and ribs. No matter your height or build, if your waist measures more than 40 inches (35 inches for women who aren’t pregnant), you probably have extra fat around your heart, liver, kidneys, and other organs. Besides needing a larger pants size, you’re more likely to have heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, and colorectal cancer.
Ideally, you want your upper, or “systolic,” number to be below 120, and your lower “diastolic” number to be below 80. Once the numbers are 130 and 80, or higher, you have high blood pressure. You may not have any symptoms, yet it can damage your heart and blood vessels. Eventually, it can also cause problems with your kidneys, eyes, and sex life.
When you’re healthy, it should be under 100 mg/dL before you eat and less than 140 mg/dL a couple of hours later. (Your doctor will set your targets, which may be a bit higher, when you have diabetes.) Higher glucose levels can lead to long-term damage of your heart, blood vessels, and kidneys. Daily exercise and healthy eating can help bring your blood sugar down.
This set of tests measures different kinds of fats in your blood: “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, “good” (HDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides. The general rule of thumb is that your total cholesterol score should be less than 200 mg/dL. You want your HDL to be 60 mg/dL or more and your triglycerides below 150 mg/dL. Unhealthy levels could lead to narrow or blocked arteries, heart attack, and stroke.
You should get at least 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, of moderate exercises (heart is pumping, lungs are working) like walking or gardening. It’s best to spread the activity out, over the week and even the day, as long as you’re doing it for at least 10 minutes. Make sure that twice a week you’re using all your major muscles to keep them strong. Muscles will burn more calories than fat, too, even at rest.
Even working out an hour a day, 7 days a week, won’t undo the unhealthy effects of sitting all day. When you stay seated, your body metabolism slows, so you burn fewer calories. Your muscles and joints stiffen up, and your back may hurt. Get up every 30 minutes or so. Stretch or take a short walk. That’s a good way to help you hold onto those hard-earned gains from the gym and possibly live longer.
To improve your health and your mood, 10,000 every day is the number you’ll hear a lot. But there’s nothing magical about it. Anywhere between 4,000 and 18,000 may be good for you. The types of steps you take are important, too.
The point is to make sure you’re getting enough moderate activity every day. Talk to your doctor about what number makes sense for you. A smartphone app or fitness tracker may help you meet your goal 🙂 🙂