All of us have important numbers to know — like our social-security-number, or ATM pin. Many times the most important numbers we should know are our blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index, and cholesterol numbers. Knowing these numbers and making them the best we can is the most desirable way to prevent disease and maintain good health.

Blood pressure measures the force and rate of the heartbeat in the arteries as the blood as it flows through the circulatory system. High Blood Pressure results when the force of blood flow is higher than the identified normal pressure levels. There are few obvious symptoms but that doesn’t make it a benign condition. Untreated high blood pressure can increase the risk of a heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. Continuous high blood pressure may also cause damage to the brain, eyes, and arteries. The goal is to maintain a blood pressure of 120/80 mmHg or below with or without blood pressure medications.

Glucose is a simple sugar (monosaccharide) molecule necessary to provide energy to the cells of the body. While it is primarily derived from the carbohydrates we eat, the body can also produce it from proteins and fats as well. Glucose travels through the bloodstream and can only be delivered to the cells when insulin is present to let it in. When there is too much glucose for the amount of insulin, high blood glucose levels result. Elevated blood glucose levels over time could indicate you have Diabetes Mellitus. Many people with elevated blood glucose levels indicative of pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes may also have elevated cholesterol levels as well as high blood pressure. The goal is to have a fasting blood sugar of 100 mg/dl or less.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a weight-to-height ratio intended to predict heath risk related to being overweight or obese. Unfortunately, BMI does not distinguish between muscle and fat so it is not a definitive indicator of risk but simply a general guideline. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and other serious diseases. The goal is to have a BMI of 25 or less.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance naturally occurring in the cells of the body. Cholesterol aids in the digestion of food, as well as the production of hormones and vitamin D. Too much cholesterol in the blood stream instead of cells, can increase your risk of heart disease or stroke. The goal is to have a total cholesterol level around 180 mg/dL or less.

Foods that could help you improve your numbers include:

Cholesterol — oats, bran, avocado, flax seeds, beans, eggplant, okra, nuts like walnuts and almonds, apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits, fatty fish such as salmon or albacore tuna

Blood pressure — low-fat dairy, flaxseed, dark chocolate, olive oil, red beets, pistachios, pomegranates, fatty fish, whole grains, leafy greens, berries, oatmeal, bananas, garlic, and herbs (Mrs. Dash)

Blood Sugar — almonds, walnuts, pistachios, oat bran, barley, rye, broccoli, cucumbers, carrots, and cinnamon

Fine tuning your daily meal and snack plans to incorporate more of these foods in place of other options is a great way to help improve your numbers. Regularly getting your numbers checked can help you avoid serious diseases by keeping you informed to maintain healthy numbers. Don’t let cholesterol control you, control it. If your blood sugar spikes, reduce it. Stay active and eat healthily. That extra weight can be lost and muscle gained. Be informed about your numbers and take the next step to improve them and your health, beginning today!

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