Biological Health Measurements: Definitions and Targets

Every time we visit the doctor for a check up we are told various indicators whose meaning we're supposed to be familiar with. The problem is most of us do not fully understand these measurements and what they mean. But worst of all we usually don't know how to change them to improve our health. Below is a compiled list of various physiological measurements.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of protein that is naturally produced by the liver in response to the type of foods we eat and the level of exercise we engage in. Too little of the good cholesterols and too much of the bad cholesterols can contribute to heart disease. More on cholesterol.

  • Total cholesterol:
    • Ideal: less than 200 mg/dL
    • Borderline: 200-239 mg/dL
    • High: 240 mg/dL or higher
  • LDL:
    • Ideal: less than 100 mg/dL
    • Borderline: 100-159 mg/dL
    • High: 160-189 mg/dL
    • Very high: 190 mg/dL
  • HDL (remember, the higher the better):
    • Ideal: higher than 60 mg/dL
    • Borderline: 40-50 mg/dL
    • Low: 40 mg/dL or lower

Triglycerides

This is a product that is found in abundance in fats and oils. It is used for taste, texture, and as a preservative. It is believed that this compound is responsible for contributing to heart disease and should be avoided whenever possible.

  • Ideal: less than 150 mg/dL
  • Borderline: 150-199 mg/dL
  • High: 200-499 mg/dL
  • Very high: > 500 mg/dL

Blood Sugar

Most of us hardly ever think about how much sugar is floating around in our blood stream. But, if you're diabetic it's probably something you think about all the time. That's because too low (hypoglycemia) or too high (hyperglycemia) sugar levels can cause severe illness and even death. At he very least, it can cause blood vessel and nerve damage which can lead to heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney failure, infections, and amputations. If testing your sugar level is part of your daily routine, it should be between 4 mmol/L to 11 mmol/L. To raise the sugar level have a light snack that contains some sugar, e.g. juice. If it's too high you may need to take your medication. If you have trouble controlling your sugar levels you should seek medical help from your physician.

Blood Pressure

In simple terms blood pressure is defined as the amount of force your blood is exerting on your arteries from the inside. If too high it can lead to damage to the arterial walls which can contribute to heart disease. An alternate name for high blood pressure is hypertension. Measuring blood pressure is very easy and takes about 3 minutes to do. But the information can be very important. Blood pressure of 120/80 mm Hg is normal. Anything lower is fine as well as long as it is not low because of an illness or disease, and does not cause fainting. Blood pressure consistently greater than 140/90 mm Hg is considered high.

Iron

Its primary role is to help transport oxygen to the body tissue. Too low and one is considered anemic. Testing iron levels involves a simple finger prick. Ideal iron levels are between 6mg for youths to 23mg for pregnant women. More info.

Thyroid Hormones

The two most important hormones are tetraiodothyronine (thyroxine or T4) and triodothyronine (T3). These hormones are vital in many areas such as metabolism rate, growth in children, and proper development. Too little of these hormones (hypothyroidism) or too much (hyperthyroidism) can wreak havoc in the body. Everyone has slightly different levels of these hormones. In order to detect an abnormality one needs to know the base line levels. This is usually achieved in early adulthood, and a physician should periodically check these levels.

Hypothyroidism can cause:

  • Goitre
  • Feeling cold
  • Poor cognitive process
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Weight gain

Hyperthyroidism can cause:

  • Goitre
  • Sweating and feeling hot
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Irregular heart beat
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