By SUZI STARHEIM
Tribune Chronicle correspondent
The difference between living a healthy, fulfilled life and living an unhealthy life is something people can take control of by being aware of their numbers. These numbers don't just refer to age and weight, however; it is much more detailed and internal than that.
"Know Your Numbers" is a national campaign aimed at educating people about how their numbers can impact their health. These numbers include blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose, Shirley Lisk, business manager at St. Joe's at the Mall, said.
In order to learn these important numbers, participants must first have blood work drawn at the first of two sessions for the program. The blood work is then processed so each individual has these crucial numbers at their disposal when they return for the next session.
After having their blood work taken, participants wait approximately a week for the next session, which will involve reading the numbers and explaining how these numbers affect the body. This second session not only involves talking about target numbers for individuals but also what exact lifestyle changes can help them to achieve those numbers.
What numbers do you need to know?
Blood pressure: Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of arteries. Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers-the systolic pressure (as the heart beats) over the diastolic pressure (as the heart relaxes between beats). Normal blood pressure is less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic.
Cholesterol:?Cholesterol is a soft, wax-like substance found in all parts of the body. Your body needs a little bit of cholesterol to work properly. But too much cholesterol can clog your arteries and lead to heart disease. LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. It's also sometimes called "bad" cholesterol. HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. It's also sometimes called "good" cholesterol. You want your HDL cholesterol to be high.
Glucose:?A blood glucose test measures the amount of a sugar called glucose in a sample of your blood. Glucose is a major source of energy for most cells of the body, including those in the brain. If you had a fasting blood glucose test, a level between 70 and100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is considered normal. If you had a random blood glucose test, normal results depend on when you last ate. Most of the time, blood glucose levels will be below 125 mg/dL. Higher-than-normal random blood glucose levels may be a sign of diabetes.
SOURCE:?National Institutes of Health
"It's important to know those numbers because that can help you make lifestyle changes if you need to make lifestyle changes and also communicate with your doctor more effectively," Lisk said.
Once people are aware of these numbers, Bridget Lackey, community health educator at Humility of Mary Health Partners, said the second "Know Your Numbers" session helps to translate how these numbers impact everyday life.
"We talk about what the numbers should be, and we show them their results," she said. "Then we also spend time talking about how we can improve their numbers."
It's all about asking the question, "What causes high numbers and what can I do about it?" she added.
Cheryl Strother, president of the Grace AME Church Nursing Guild, said this concern about being aware of one's numbers stemmed a partnership between the church and Humility of Mary Health Partners. In 2006, Strother reached out the HMHP to see if they would host a "Know Your Numbers" event at the church for community members. Each July or August since then, the event has been a big success at the church.
"A lot of people are really concerned about their numbers and trying to find what they need to do to bring them down," Strother said. "We usually expect to see about 60 to 65 people on average."
The Grace AME Church "Know Your Numbers" sessions are set up like the other events; at the first session, participants come and have their blood drawn, and there is a continental breakfast for them after the blood draw. The second session is the session that involves the presenting of the numbers to participants. They also have time to voice any concerns they have about their numbers.
"It also gives those participants an opportunity to look at those results and see where their elevations are, and during the presentation they can ask questions about how they can get those numbers lower," Strother added.
Another community health outreach program Grace AME Church offers is an annual prostate screening for men older than 40, Strother said. This event, which takes place each September, has a turnout of approximately 75 men, on average.
"Our goal is to get 100 men next year," she added.
In addition to the three crucial numbers-blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose-Lackey said there are two more numbers that often shed light on health issues: weight and waist measurement.
"That abdominal fat that you hear so much about that is so deadly because then it can lead to that metabolic syndrome, increased risk of diabetes, and heart disease because it's not just the muffin top that you see, but it's also all around your organs," she added.
While it is good to translate these numbers for the individuals attending the sessions, Lackey said it's important that the individuals who need to make lifestyle changes see the positive ways in which they are able to make these changes rather than feeling that knowing these numbers only restricts them from the things they enjoy.
"We like to try to talk to them more about the positives," Lackey said.
A simple change that can have a big impact on one's numbers, for example, would be eating more fruits and eating the healthy fats, such as almonds, walnuts, tuna, and salmon rather than the unhealthy fats, such as fried foods. It's these manageable, positive changes in one's lifestyle that make better numbers possible.
"We try not to be so negative so that people don't walk away thinking they can't eat anything," Lackey added.
Ultimately, knowing your numbers can make life much healthier and enjoyable for you and the people surrounding you, Lisk added.
"It's a wellness factor; by understanding these numbers, it can create wellness in the community as well as in the workplace," Lisk said.