Are you always juggling a million things to the point where you’re neglecting your own health? While you’re not alone, you must make time to take care of yourself. Here are three simple tests that are not only easy to do, but could also help save your life.
Test #1: Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is known as a silent killer. What’s more, 1 out or 4 Americans don’t even realize that they have hypertension because there are no visible symptoms. High blood pressure (HBP) can damage not only your heart, but also your brain, kidneys and other organs. You need to get your blood pressure tested, either at your doctor’s office, or with an at-home blood pressure monitor. Blood pressure readings are also available at most pharmacies. Check with your local pharmacist to learn how you can get your reading.
Your blood pressure consists of 2 numbers: the top or higher number is called the systolic number (pressure in vessels when your heart is beating), and the bottom or lower number is your diastolic number (pressure in your vessels when your heart is at rest). Here are the numbers you need to know:
- Optimal BP: 115/75
- Pre-hypertension: 120-140
- Hypertension (high BP): Over 140/90
Weight reduction is the most significant thing you can do to prevent high blood pressure. In addition, follow these tips:
Take Baby Aspirin: Most people think baby aspirin is only used to prevent heart attacks by thinning the blood, but it can also reduce high blood pressure by slowing production of the hormones that control HBP while you sleep. Take it at night to help lower your blood pressure when you wake up in the morning, the time when you are more likely to have elevated BP due to constricted blood vessels. If you’re over 40, or if you have risk factors for high blood pressure, take 2 baby aspirin at night.
Drink Hibiscus Tea: Drinking 3 cups of hibiscus tea has been shown to help lower blood pressure. It’s available at health food stores for about $5.
Test #2: Blood Sugar: Almost 1 in 3 Americans with pre-diabetes or diabetes don’t even know they have this serious disease. Signs of diabetes include fatigue, frequent urination and extreme thirst. You can determine your blood sugar level with a simple finger stick test that you can purchase or have conducted at your doctor’s office. Blood glucose readings are also offered at many pharmacies.
Diabetes indicates that your blood glucose is too high and your body is inhibited from producing enough insulin (secreted by the pancreas) to keep blood sugar levels stable.
Here are the blood sugar numbers you need to know. Your fasting blood glucose level means you did not eat the night before it was measured.
Normal: Fasting blood glucose: 70-100MG/DL
Pre-diabetes: Fasting blood glucose: 100-125 MG/DL
Diabetes: Fasting blood sugar: over 136 MG/DL
The good news with diabetes is that you can potentially lower your numbers dramatically. Here are some tips:
Try Vinegar: Take 1 teaspoon before a meal to help keep blood sugar stable.
For a Sweet Fix, Eat Fruit: Instead of reaching for cookies or other sweets loaded with refined sugar, reach for specific fruits that are high in fiber and low in sugar, such as cherries or apricots.
Take Alpha Lipoic Acid: This supplement has been shown to lower blood sugar levels. You can start by taking 300mg and work up to 500mg. It’s available at vitamin stores for about $10.
Test #3: Waist Size
Half of men and 70% of women in the United States between the ages of 50 and 79 have waist sizes that indicate obesity. Too much of a waist can lead to heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. That’s because excess abdominal, or omentum, fat pumps out toxic chemicals that not only keep you fat but also cause inflammation that poisons your organs, especially your liver.
To maintain optimal health, your ideal waist size should be less than half your height. For the average 5’ 4” woman, waist size should measure 32 inches or less. The waist of an average 5’ 10” man should measure 35 inches or less. Use a tape measure and wrap it around your natural waist, which is not at your belt but above your hips.
You can also calculate your body mass index. Often referred to as your BMI, your body mass index is a measure of your weight relative to your height. A healthy BMI should fall between 18.4 - 24.9. Use this tool to calculate your BMI.
Stress is a leading contributor to belly fat. Here are some tips to help you stay lean:
Eat Dried Pumpkin Seeds: Rich in healthy fats, dried pumpkin seeds help reduce inflammation in the body. They have a 0 glycemic index, which also prevents packing on excess pounds.
Take White Bean Extract: Often times when you’re stressed out, you reach for carbs that increase weight gain. The supplement white bean extract inhibits the enzyme alpha-amylase, which blocks the absorption of carbs and reduces your chance of developing excess belly fat. You can start out by taking 500mg of white bean extract each day before a big meal and then increase it to twice daily.