Are You Healthy?

I feel good, but how do I know if I am healthy?

My 60-year-old brother-in-law went out to eat breakfast on a Saturday morning in September, while his wife was out of town.  He came home, put on a pot of coffee and settled down on the sofa in front of the television to wait for it to brew.  He died a few minutes later... with the remote in his hand.  He was overweight, but not excessively so.  He was a physician and worked very hard, but had no obvious signs of health problems.  He felt fine.  His family is DEVASTATED.  How could this "just happen?" 

We all have reasons to think that we are healthy...  

  • "I'm thin"
  • "I work out"
  • "I don't smoke"
  • "I'm a runner"
  • "I eat a lot of fish"   

What Are "Excellent Health" Markers?

There has been a lot of research done over the years about health and disease. We all know what we think we should do based on the latest news story.  But, I have been digging a little deeper to find out what the experts are saying about some objective measures for excellent health.

Of course, most of the "markers" you are accustomed to are "average" markers. Unfortunately, nearly one out of two people with "average" markers will have a heart attack, a stroke or even a cancer diagnosis.

That's why you will want to get your numbers better than "average."

I've come up with 20 objective markers for "excellence."  If you "pass" each one of the twenty, "Congratulations!"  If you miss the mark on any of them, it would be wise to research how you can climb out of your rut and get back to the top of the ladder - back to excellent health!

You are the only one who can do it - you are the one in charge of your health. Do not leave your family DEVASTED.

How much do you weigh?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #1:
A BMI between 20 and 23

It has been found through a number of studies that the risk of dying of heart disease or of developing cancer increases among those in the upper half of the normal BMI range. Therefore, it is recommended that you maintain a BMI between 20 and 23. If your Body Mass Index is 25 or above, you are considered overweight. 

Go here for a BMI calculator to find out YOUR BMI.

You can read more about your BMI by clicking here.

What is your cholesterol?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #2:
A total cholesterol level (without medication) below 150

The Framingham Heart Study is a fifty-year project that has analyzed medical data from several generations of residents in Framingham, Massachusetts.  Former director of the study, Dr. William Castelli, has boldly said that no one in Framingham who maintained a cholesterol level lower than 150 mg/dL has had a heart attack.

A person who maintains a blood cholesterol (without medication) under 150 mg/dL for a lifetime will not develop coronary artery disease - even if he/she smokes, has a family history of coronary disease, suffers from hypertension, and is obese!

To find out your cholesterol level you will need to check with your physician.  Alternatives include a visit to an "Any Lab Test" location in your town and pay $50, or check with your local blood bank about a FREE cholesterol screening when you give blood.

A good blog post about cholesterol can be found here.

What Is Your LDL Cholesterol?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #3:
An LDL cholesterol level (without medication) <70

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is "bad" cholesterol.  Elevations in LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol are risk factors for cardiovascular disease as well as early Alzheimer's.

An LDL of "70" will stop the progression of disease. However, if you already have disease, you will want to get your LDL down to "50" as that is the level you need to "reverse" your disease.

What Is Your Cholesterol Ratio?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #4:
A cholesterol ratio of (without medication)<3 to 1

To calculate your cholesterol ratio, divide your total cholesterol number by your HDL cholesterol number. So if your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL and your HDL is 50 mg/dL, your ratio would be 4-to-1. Higher ratios mean a higher risk of heart disease.

What Is Your HDL?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #5:
An HDL >40 (without medication)

If you are eating the standard American diet, you will want your HDL to be over 40.  There are actually two kinds of HDL: one that is anti-inflammatory and functioning well and doing good things for your arteries, but there is also HDL that is pro-inflammatory and dysfunctional. You can repair dysfunctional HDL by changing your lifestyle and moving away from the standard American diet.

Two ways to raise your HDL are through weight reduction and exercise. However, there is no evidence that high HDL levels reduce cardiovascular disease.

Your HDL is like a garbage truck which eliminates EXCESS CHOLESTEROL, that you consume through your diet, to the liver to be excreted in the bile. The more junk and excess cholesterol you have in your bloodstream, the more garbage trucks you need, hence a higher HDL for the AVERAGE "overweight" American.

What Is Your Non-HDL Cholesterol?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #6:
A Non-HDL cholesterol level (without medication) <80

Here is the formula for determining your non-HDL:

Total cholesterol minus HDL cholesterol = Non-HDL cholesterol.
(TC - HDL = NonHDL)

What Is Your ApoB Cholesterol?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #7:
An Apo-B cholesterol level (without medication) <80

ApoB-containing lipoproteins are always bad and artery-clogging. The greater the number, the greater the risk of more cholesterol ending up in the artery wall and, in the long term, the greater the risk of a heart attack. Reducing the amount of dietary fat and cholesterol you consume and eating more fiber-rich, whole plant foods will lower your Apo-B. 

To find out your fasting APO-B level you will need to check with your physician.  Alternatives include a visit to an "Any Lab Test" location in your town or online at healthtestingcenter.com and pay $49.

What is your blood pressure?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #8:
A blood pressure reading (w/o medication) of 110/70

High blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the most common chronic conditions in the U.S.  Numerous studies warn that if you have one chronic illness, you're likely to get sick with an additional one.  In 2004, Americans on Medicare saw an average of seven different physicians in a year. 

To find out your blood pressure you will need to check with your physician.  

Alternatives include a visit to your pharmacy (CVS, Walgreens) where you can use their FREE blood pressure cuff.  Sit quietly for a minute and then do the test.  Repeat the test 3 times with a rest in between.  Write down each reading.  When finished, add the top numbers of your three scores and divide by 3.  Do the same with the bottom numbers. This should give you a good average of your blood pressure.

What is your triglyceride level?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #9:
A triglyceride level less than 100 mg/dl

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that a triglyceride level of 99 mg/dL (1.1 mmol/L) or lower is considered "optimal."

If you get your total cholesterol and your LDL cholesterol down to the "excellent" range, your triglyceride level will come down below "100."

To find out your triglyceride level you will need to check with your physician.  Alternatives include a visit to an "Any Lab Test" location in your town where you can pay $50 for a lipid panel which will give you your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

What is your level of insulin resistance?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #10:
An insulin resistance (IR) level of less than 3.5

An insulin resistance level above 3.5* (for caucasians) us considered a hidden cause of heart attacks. Having insulin resistance indicates that you have high triglycerides and a low HDL. Insulin resistance is also called metabolic syndrome and is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. It is the leading cause of vascular blockages and chronic inflammation and speeds up the progression of arterial disease.  To find your 'score,' divide your triglyceride level by your HDL.

Other signs of IR include: a large waist, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, low HDL cholesterol, and high triglycerides. If you have three or more of these factors, you have metabolic syndrome.

*For Hispanics, the level is below 3.0 and for African Americans it is below 2.0.

What is your hemoglobin level?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #11:
A hemoglobin level of 13.7 gm/dl

Hemoglobin is usually measured as part of a complete blood count (CBC) from a blood sample. Hemoglobin measures the amount of iron in your blood. For more information about hemoglobin, click here.

What is your BUN (Blood, Urea, Nitrogen)?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #12:
A BUN <15 mg/dl

This level reflects the amount of protein you eat and the function of your kidneys. Normal is less than 15 mg/dl.

What is your Uric Acid Level?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #13:
A Uric Acid Level <7 mg/dl

Your uric acid level should be below 7 mg/dl. A higher figure indicates a risk of developing gout and/or kidney stones.

How much inflammation do you have?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #14:
A CRP level <1

Low risk: <1.0 mg/L
Average risk: 1.0-3.0 mg/L
High risk: above 3.0 mg/L

To find out the level of inflammation in your body, you will want to get a blood test called the hs-CRP.  Chronic inflammation is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, asthma, bronchitis, or even Crohn's disease.  We don't know if the disease causes the inflammation or whether the inflammation causes the disease.  But, scientists do know that if your CRP level is high, you may have some underlying disease processes going on in your body.

To find out your CRP level you will need to check with your physician.  Alternatives include a visit to an "Any Lab Test" location in your town and pay $80.

What is your homosteine level?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #15:
Homocysteine Levels <13 micromoles

Homocysteine levels are measured by taking a blood sample. Normal levels are in the range between 5 to 13 micromoles (measurement unit of small amount of a molecule) per liter. 

Studies have shown that high levels of homocysteine in the blood are related to an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease and osteoporosis. Current findings strongly suggest that testing for homocysteine levels can dramatically improve identifying and addressing these medical conditions at an early stage.

Homocysteine is an amino acid in your blood that our bodies use for energy production.  Homocysteine levels are strongly influenced by your diet, as well as by genetic factors. Homocysteine is acquired mainly from eating meat whereas folic acid and other B vitamins help break down homocysteine. 

To find out your homocysteine level you will need to check with your physician.  Alternatives include a visit to an "Any Lab Test" location in your town and pay $99.

What is your blood sugar (glucose) level?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #16:
Glucose Level between 50 mg/dL and 99 mg/dL

Diabetes (mellitus) is a disease characterized primarily by elevated sugar levels measured by a blood test usually taken after 6 to 8 hours without food (a fast). Normal fasting blood sugar values vary among healthy people between 50 mg/dL to 99 mg/dL.  Levels above 100 mg/dL suggest impairment of the body's blood sugar-regulating mechanisms (impaired glucose tolerance = IGT) and a level above 126 mg/dL is defined as diabetes

To find out your fasting glucose level you will need to check with your physician.  Alternatives include a visit to an "Any Lab Test" location in your town and pay $99.

What is your lipoprotein (a) level?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #17:
Lipoprotein (a) level <14

Elevated levels of Lipoprotein (a) may increase your risk of atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, heart attack, peripheral heart disease, blood clot or stroke.

Lp(a) is a genetic condition, if one individual has a high level of Lp(a) then the family should be checked as well. Diet and exercise seems to play a small role on the Lp(a) level in your body, so it is important that you be as strict as possible. Niacin is one of the only treatments that seems to work.

Because this is genetic, you will only need to get this test one time.  If you are in the optimal level, you will only have to concern yourself with all of the other "markers." If you have a high level of Lp(a), you may want to see a cardiologist to discuss your risk factors.

To find out your fasting Lp(a) level you will need to check with your physician.  Alternatives include a visit to an "Any Lab Test" location in your town or go online to healthtestingcenters.com and pay $49. 

Do you smoke or use drugs?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #18:
No smoking, using snuff or recreational drugs

This is a "Yes" or a "No."  You already know that if you are using tobacco or other drugs you are not giving your body a chance for Excellent Health. The only way you can pass this Marker is to give up the habit.

What is your TSH?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #19:
TSH levels (Thyroid) between 0.4 and 2.5 mU/L 

Many tests show normal results to be in the range of 0.4 and 3.75, but levels higher than 2.5 mU/L could mean more heart disease.  Mild hypothyroidism is associated with higher cholesterol levels and increased risk of congestive heart failure among older adults.  Treatment recommended for a mild deficiency is usually a generic brand of levothyroxine.

Do you measure once every year or two?

EXCELLENT HEALTH MARKER #20:
Get tested and keep track of your test results at least once a year

Copyright © 2010-2018, Melinda Coker and with Splash!, LLC.  All Rights Reserved. 

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