Keeping track of certain health numbers can help you get healthy and stay ahead of chronic diseases.

Your Health | 15 days ago

You Know Your Numbers – Now What?

Keeping track of certain health numbers can help you get healthy and stay ahead of chronic diseases. Learn which numbers to watch and why going to the doctor is so important.

Everyone is always telling you to know your numbers – but which ones should you know? And once you know your numbers, what are you supposed to do about them?

According to Lydia Calamari, MD, a doctor at Charlotte Internal Medicine and Specialty Group, the most important things to follow are your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. If those numbers are high, you might be at a greater risk for heart disease and diabetes – which is a big deal: 1 in 4 deaths in the U.S. is from heart disease, and more than 30 percent of us are at risk for diabetes.

Fortunately, there’s good news. Even if some of your numbers are higher than what is recommended, they don’t have to stay that way. “The value of knowing your numbers is that it empowers you to take control of your health,” explains Dr. Calamari.

Unlike age and genetics – which you can’t change – Dr. Calamari calls things like cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure “modifiable risk factors.” This means they can potentially be improved by making simple, everyday changes to your lifestyle.

That’s reassuring, but where do you begin?

Tried and True Over Trends

There are lots of ways to keep your health in check. Healthcare providers like Dr. Calamari work with patients every day to help them set health goals, and at the top of the list? Diet and exercise.

But knowing what to eat – and when – can be difficult, especially with so many high-this, low-that fad diets out there. “I get a lot of questions about specific diets that people have heard about in the media or pop culture,” says Dr. Calamari. “My answer is always that tried and true lifestyle changes are the best for a healthy diet and weight.”

Instead of turning to the latest trends, Dr. Calamari helps her patients focus on adding in vegetables and lean proteins and avoiding sweetend beverages and fast, processed foods.

She also encourages her patients to get the weekly recommended 150 minutes of exercise, but remember it doesn’t all have to be done at once. For instance, you could go for a 30-minute walk 5 days a week, or take a 50-minute cardio class 3 days a week. As Dr. Calamari says, working out doesn’t have to be boring. “It can be cardio, weightlifting or even a fun exercise class!” she adds.

Going to the Doctor When You’re Healthy

You know how helpful it is to have a doctor when you’re sick. But what about when you’re well?

The truth is you can have high cholesterol and increased blood pressure, without a single symptom. Scheduling an annual exam – even when you feel great – is one of the best ways to get healthy and stay ahead of chronic diseases. (Plus, with this online scheduling tool, it’s easy to make appointments at a place and time that work for you, with same-day and next-day appointments available.)

By getting the recommended tests and screenings even just once a year, you’ll not only know your numbers – you’ll know your risks and if you have any underlying conditions. “As a doctor, I see the importance of preventive healthcare every day,” says Dr. Calamari. “It’s important to have someone who has seen your baseline for things like blood pressure and weight.”

Your primary care doctor is there to do more than test and diagnose, though – they’ll also help you set goals, guide you to helpful resources and connect you with the right specialty care if you need it.

But not everyone loves going to the doctor. Even parents who always remember to schedule a yearly checkup for their kids skip out on their own doctor’s appointments. We all know going to the doctor is good for us, but it can be difficult to open up about our health and habits. It feels so personal, right?

Rest assured that your doctor’s office is a great place to be honest, without embarrassment. “I do my best to create a safe, nonjudgmental environment so people can feel comfortable sharing their concerns,” says Dr. Calamari. “When you’re totally honest with your doctor, we can best help you take control of your health.”

So, what’s next? Find a doctor. Learn your numbers. Get a workout buddy. Eat more veggies. And remember that even simple, everyday changes can have a huge impact on your health.