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Know your numbers: Keeping scores in right range for good health

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Carrie Flury, PA-C

If you’re beginning the New Year armed with healthy resolutions, it may be a good idea to start off knowing your numbers. Good health, however, is more than a low reading on the bathroom scale: it involves many other variables. Bone up on your health IQ and learn the scores that make the difference in how your health measures up.

Blood Sugar/Glucose

The three types of diabetes are:

1) Gestational Diabetes — which can develop during pregnancy;

2) Type 1 Diabetes (now known as Insulin-Dependent Diabetes) — formerly called Juvenile Diabetes since it affects children, teenagers or young adults; and

3. Type 2 Diabetes (now known Non-insulin Dependent Diabetes) — formerly called Adult-onset Diabetes since it is more and more prevalent among overweight children and adolescents.

And, if your blood sugar is elevated, but not within the range that qualifies as full-blown diabetes, you’re considered to have Pre-Diabetes — which can be managed with good lifestyle choices like eating right, losing weight and staying active; and doesn’t necessarily progress to diabetes.

Long-term, high blood glucose damages nerves and blood vessels and can result in heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nerve problems, gum infections, and even the loss of limbs.

BMI

Maintaining a healthy weight range for your age is good, but your body mass index (BMI) reveals more about your health. BMI is the ratio of your weight adjusted for your height. Your BMI is an important number because it is considered to be a more accurate definition for overweight and obesity than weight alone.

A BMI value of 18.5 to 24.9nis considered the ideal range for good health. Numbers ranging from 25 to 29.9 place you in the “overweight” category, and a BMI of 30 or greater is considered “obese.”

The Thyroid

The thyroid gland works in conjunction with the pituitary gland — which produces thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to help make two thyroid hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones ensure the proper growth and development of the brain in children, and in adults they regulate the way the body uses energy.

When thyroid hormone levels are out of kilter, our bodies do not process energy properly. This can affect our metabolism (and therefore our weight), energy level, sleep patterns, heart rate, digestion and menstrual cycle. A simple blood test can tell if the thyroid gland is working properly and diagnose thyroid problems. Among the tests and measurements your doctor may use are total T4 and T3, free T4 and T3 (meaning the amount of T4 and T3 in your bloodstream), and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. High TSH levels may be caused by an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or thyroiditis. Low TSH levels may be caused by an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism), a thyroid nodule (a growth that is usually non-cancerous), or first-trimester pregnancy.

Normal thyroid hormone ranges include:

Total T4: 4.5 to 11.2 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL).

Free T4: .7 to 2.0 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL).

Total T3: 80 to 220 points

Thyroid stimulating hormone: 0.4-4.5 mIU/L.

Many of these tests are routine parts of an annual physical; others are introduced as you age or have health issues that indicate that a screening is needed. Your personal physician will know which routine tests you should have based on your age, gender and health.

Remember that this information is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor, but rather to increase awareness and help equip patients with information and facilitate conversations with your physician that will benefit your health.

Carrie Flury, PA-C is a certified physician’s assistant for Eastern New Mexico Medical Group’s La Familia Primary Care. The advice offered in this column is that of the author.