Q: What are the perfect physical exam numbers for adults?
A: There are many numbers to consider when going for a physical exam. Some of the top screening measures that alert us to potential problems include blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, fasting blood sugar and blood lipids (cholesterol, HDL, triglycerides and LDL).Knowing your weight by itself is a start, but there are other numbers that give us a better sense of their potential affect on your future state of health.
Waist to Hip Ratio
What it measures: This calculation is based upon your waist circumference compared to that of your hips, determining whether you are pear-shaped (fat settles and builds up around the hips) or apple-shaped (fat accumulates around your waist).
Why it’s important: It’s not just how much fat is present, but where it is located. Those with an apple shape and high WHR are at a greater risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Additionally, a waist circumference of greater than 35 inches for women or more than 40 inches for men may indicate a higher risk for metabolic syndrome and its potential health complications (high triglycerides, high blood sugar, cardiovascular disease, others).
By the numbers:
0.8 or below
0.81 to 0.85
greater than 0.85
0.95 or below
0.96 – 1.0
greater than 1.0
What it measures: Two numbers that measure the force of blood against the walls of our arteries. The systolic (top number) indicates the pressure when the heart is pumping oxygen-rich blood into our arteries, while the diastolic (bottom number) records the pressure of the blood against the artery walls between heartbeats.
Why it’s important: If blood pressure is too high, health concerns including heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and eye disease may occur. One or more blood pressure medications are often needed to get the pressure into a healthier range, as well as preventive measures. We often have patients re-check their blood pressures at home just in case they get nervous when visiting their healthcare provider.
By the numbers:
less than 80
may indicate a potential health problem
Stage 1 high blood pressure
Preventive measures (low salt, exercise, weight loss, stress reduction, others) as well as medication may be needed.
Stage 2 high blood pressure
160 and above
100 and above
Preventive measures as well as one, but often several medications
What it measures: Breaths per minute.
Why it’s important: This is a very basic but important check. If you are breathing fast on a regular basis it may indicate a medical concern such as asthma, heart failure or emphysema. If your breathing is slow or irregular, especially at night, it may be a symptom of sleep apnea. It is important to know that medications may also affect your breathing pattern.
By the numbers: The average “normal” respiratory rate in adults is 12 to 20 breaths per minute.
Resting Heart Rate
What it measures: The pulse rate of your heart.
Why it’s important: Sometimes this number is fast due to anxiety, illness (fever, pain), medications (stimulants, others), caffeine or exercise. Other times it may be slow if you are in excellent physical shape, are sleeping or taking certain medications such as sleeping pills. However, there are also times your heart rate may be fast, slow, or irregular due to cardiac or other health concerns.
By the numbers: Average adult heart rates of 60 to 100 per are considered normal. Well-trained athletes average 40 to 60 beats per minute.
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