Empowerment: Knowing Your Health Numbers

health measurements

Let’s face it, my dog Brody is old.  At the age of 15, I still think he is living life to his fullest and is, unapologetically, my favorite family member. When I took him for his annual vet check-up, they asked if I wanted to run “senior bloodwork.” Through tears and a tight grip on my credit card, I said no. I know that he is on his way out. Unless he is exhibiting symptoms, I want to blissfully stay in ignorance. It is, honestly, too hard for me to think about. The vet was ok with this as he is overall doing well. Phew!

As horrible as this sounds; blissful ignorance, avoidance, or laziness of knowing health numbers is something I encounter with most health clients. Calculating your BMI or checking blood sugar levels can bring up unwanted emotions like fear, guilt, or shame. That’s because we’re human. Knowing and understanding health numbers like A1C, cholesterol, resting heart rate, thyroid, BMI, etc., can seem cumbersome and like one more thing to keep track of in our busy lives. Fortunately, there’s an app for that. Knowing our numbers and personal data is important and empowering. When we are able to set aside fear and shame, we can open up to advocating for ourselves and responsibly take action when needed. When we keep track of our health numbers over time, we can start to notice what feels good to us within a certain range and notice when a number changes. The more information and awareness we have, the more power we have in managing our health. Doctors also appreciate a patient who can actively participate in conversations about their own health.

Some helpful numbers/personal health data to know:

  • BMI (Body Mass Index)
  • Resting Heart Rate
  • Blood Pressure
  • Blood Cholesterol
  • Fasting Blood Glucose

Tips & Tricks:

Request bloodwork from your healthcare provider. Whether you’ve been to the doctor recently or not, you have a right to request bloodwork or lab orders from your doctor on at least an annual basis as wellness prevention. If you have individual or family medical history, they may even request more data while you’re at it. This is generally free and welcomed by insurance companies. Prevention is even good for their bottom line.

Learn your numbers. We can receive a phone call or email from our doctor from our bloodwork saying “everything looks fine!” While this is great news, it’s not the whole story. Ask what the numbers are and write them down. Most healthcare providers also have health portals where you are able to view your health information. If it isn’t there, call back and ask them to upload it. Take a look at your numbers and get to know your ranges. You can personally track trends over time. Also, doctors are human and unfortunately can miss something. Even if everything looks fine and you still have a gut feeling something is off, feel free to give a call back and tell them.

Store your numbers. In the United States, we don’t have a universal health care system. That means that whenever we change doctors, our health records don’t follow us unless we request them, which can seem like a huge task. It’s a good idea to store this information in a safe folder or a secure app. That way if you change providers, add a practitioner, or are traveling; you’ll have your numbers when you need them. Share with a trusted loved one who supports you in your health.

Participate in the conversation and change. If something in your bloodwork comes back out of range or is of personal concern, work with your providers on what that means and where evidence-based resources are that could help you understand (avoid unleashing google if possible). Start using an app to track progress and data in between visits to your provider. Bring it to your next visit. The more data, the more information to work with.

Use data as motivation for healthy habits. Our numbers are great actual measurements of what’s happening inside our bodies that we can’t see. This is an important piece to the whole of our lives. Use your number as a way to set goals. Want to decrease/increase your BMI? Set a goal for a slightly different one. What to lower your resting heart rate? Set a goal for one slightly lower. Your numbers are great and you want to maintain where you’re at? Make that number a goal.  Then set mini goals and action steps that will help you get there.

Let go of control and obsession. It’s important to note that we can have this sneaky thing creep up on us that tips the scale to the other side. Measuring numbers over time will show the best data and tracking of your behaviors. It can also bring up other emotions and cause discouraging set backs or overexurtion. Slow and steady wins the race. Be sure you check your numbers often enough based on doctor recommendations or so that you can notice trends. This can be weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually depending on where you’re at. Generally, not every minute or even daily. Plan with grace and self-compassion. Contact a mental health professional if strong emotions or obsessiveness creep in. You can work through it!

As a health coach, I support clients in understanding their own numbers and using them as data points in setting, tracking, reaching, and maintaining their health goals. Awareness is a superpower!

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