October 4, 2021

Rock The Walk 2021: Week 2

General Health

Welcome back to week 2 of the Rock the Walk Challenge—hopefully you dominated week 1 and are ready to tackle week 2. If you feel you can make improvements from last week…hey—you’re in luck! You have an opportunity this week, and 4 more weeks to continue to improve and be a better version of yourself.

This week’s blog will feel a bit clinical, which is a perfect continuation of last week’s blog that talked about being Aware of your Health and visiting your Primary Care Provider. When you visit your Primary Care Provider (PCP), you not only will be able to discuss any health concerns you may have, but you may have to have your blood pressure taken and have a lab draw as well.

What’s the purpose of this? Why are these numbers important?

These numbers all have components that can be controlled (and improved!) by lifestyle and behavior changes and your provider may discuss these factors. Additionally, the more risk factors you have and the more severe they are (numbers out of range) the higher your overall risk for various chronic conditions and diseases.

For this blog, I’ll be touching on many of the more popular numbers that you and your Primary Care Provider may be discussing and can be indicative of how at risk you are for various diseases. At the end of the blog, we’ll do a wrap up of the lifestyle changes you can apply to address ALL of these numbers.

Body Mass Index (BMI)*

A person’s ideal body weight varies by gender, age, height, and frame. Your BMI is calculated by using your height and scale weight and can help to give an indicator if you are at a healthy weight.

Why you should know this number:

Having excess weight on your body and a higher-than-desirable BMI can mean higher risk for serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and diabetes. Additionally, when you are in a normal weight category, your body works more efficiently, and you may feel better about yourself and have more energy.

*While BMI can be a valuable tool in determining health risk for many individuals, it is only one facet of your health, and does not consider some factors such as muscle mass, bone density and overall body composition.

 Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the arteries when the heart beats and rests and is typically measured with a blood pressure cuff. Systolic blood pressure (top number) is the peak pressure in the arteries and the Diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) is the lowest pressure.

Why you should know this number:

Having high blood pressure is sometimes called “the silent killer” because you don’t realize you have high blood pressure until the damage is done, which takes place over time (ok…unless there’s 37 seconds left of a Packer game versus San Francisco—then you probably DEFINITELY feel your blood pressure increase!) Uncontrolled high blood pressure over time can lead to heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, vision loss, sexual dysfunction and other chronic conditions.

Fasting Blood Sugar / Hemoglobin A1c

Blood sugar is the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Hemoglobin A1c is a test to give you a picture of what your average blood sugar control over the course of 2-3 months, and many times is the preferred test to check for blood sugar or may be ordered if you are pre-diabetic or diabetic.

Why you should know this number:

Knowing your blood sugar number(s) can give you an indicator if your body is giving you a ‘warning light’ by being pre-diabetic or if you are in the diabetic range.

Total Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is produced in the liver and ingested with some foods we eat. It is unable to be dissolved in the blood and is transported to and from the cells by carriers called “lipoproteins”(read more about the different cholesterol types below).

Why you should know this number:

As the amount of cholesterol in your blood increases, so does the risk to your health for diseases and conditions such as heart disease and stroke because cholesterol can join other substances to form a thick, hard deposit on the inside of your arteries.

Cholesterol Types

Two types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol to and from cells—one is known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL)and one is high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is considered the “bad” cholesterol because it contributes to fatty buildups in your arteries and HDL is thought of the “good” cholesterol because carries the bad cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it is broken down and passed out of the body.

Why you should know this number:

Having too much LDL cholesterol or too little HDL cholesterol can hurt your overall health and can contribute to the fatty buildup in your arteries, which, in turn can lead to heart attack, stroke or Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).

Addressing these numbers

Finding out your numbers is a great opportunity for you to be aware of your health, and to have a ‘pulse’ on any health concerns or risks that may be present. All of these health numbers can be addressed and improved with lifestyle modifications. Some of these include:

  • Physical Activity
    • Hey! You’re already doing this with the challenge. Physical activity is great for the entire body—physically and mentally. Aim for your 150 minutes a week and keep things fun so you stick with the exercise habit.
  • Nutrition
    • Food is fuel, and what we put in our body ultimately can help or hind our progress with our wellness goals. What we eat plays a factor with our health numbers, so aim for a well-balanced diet that includes lean protein, whole grains, fruit and vegetables and low-fat dairy, and focus on nutrient dense foods versus calorie dense. Notice ice cream is not in the list, but…well…could slide in under the low-fat dairy NO! I’m not going there!!
  • Sleep
    • ZZzZZzZ—adults should be aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep a day, and good sleep hygiene is important for overall health. Make your sleep environment inviting by keeping it dark and cool, and prep for sleep by winding down about 30 minutes before bedtime and enjoying quiet and soothing activities before, such as meditation, reading or stretching.
  • Stress Management
    • Stress, stress, stress—it’s everywhere! Taking time to recognize what stress is in your life, and finding your coping mechanisms will keep stress at bay. If your stress levels are unmanageable or you are finding yourself experiencing suicidal ideation, please reach out to your Primary Care Provider or other healthcare professional for help.
  • Weight Management
    • All of the above suggestions can help with this topic. Perhaps being in a normal BMI category is not realistic for you, however, weight loss of even 5% or 10% has been proven to improve health numbers and could potentially reduce disease risk.
  • Quitting Smoking
    • Smoking wreaks havoc on your body and can affect your health numbers drastically. If you are interested in quitting, there are a lot of great resources for assisting you in your efforts, and they include calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW, visiting/chatting/calling https://quitline.wisc.edu/ and visiting lung.org.
  • Watching alcohol intake
    • The CDC’s recommendations for alcohol intake is men: no more than 2 drinks per day and women: no more than 1 drink per day. Consuming alcohol can cause many physical and mental disruptions to your body and being conscientious of your intake is important for overall health.

Visiting your Primary Care Provider and finding out that one or more of your health numbers are abnormal can be a scary realization, however, you have a choice in how you approach this situation, and your PCP will help guide you in making the necessary health changes. Many of your health numbers can be positive influenced by making changes, and that starts with YOU—you can do it!

Until next time!