How often have you seen or known someone in your gym, on TV, friends, family members, or even yourself who has the type of body that draws envious stares, that others wish for or continually strive for? Do you want to have the:
- Muscular, defined and chiseled body of a male or female bodybuilder?
- The lean ripped look of a fitness competitor or athlete?
- The long, lean, graceful yet strong look of a dancer?
- The beautiful strong, sexy and feminine curves that songs are written about?
It’s perfectly normal and fine to want to look a specific way (who doesn’t?) and to try to achieve a strong, healthy and fit body through solid nutrition and exercise. But before you start to seek your perceived “perfection” of any of the above (or something not listed), you must make sure you’re as beautifully fit and healthy on the inside as you are, or would like to be on the outside.
At this time, I usually follow-up the above with a nutrition or exercise program, but in this article, we’re going to go deeper! I know that for many of you, getting a yearly physical or annual checkup can be a big hassle (making appointments, waiting, insurance, cost), but having and knowing your health numbers (baseline) can possibly save and change your life forever!
Now, have you ever picked a beautiful piece of fruit, admiring its outer beauty, only to discover (usually the hard way) that once you bite into it that the fruit was rotten? Well the same can be said for your body and that includes all of your internal organs.
Now what baseline numbers am I talking about? There are many that we all need to know and keep track of, so I’ve listed a few that you need to know:
Blood Pressure Check (Hypertension):
Blood pressure is a measure of how hard the blood pushes against the walls of your arteries as it moves through your body. It’s normal for blood pressure to go up and down throughout the day but if it stays up, you have high blood pressure.
When your blood pressure is high, it can damage the blood vessels, heart and kidneys. This can lead to a heart attack, stroke and other problems. High blood pressure is called a “silent killer” because it doesn’t usually cause symptoms while it is causing this damage.
Goal: 120/80 or less. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. If you fall into the category in between these numbers, its called pre-hypertension. People with pre-hypertension need to make lifestyle changes to bring their blood pressure down and help prevent or delay high blood pressure in the future.
Cholesterol Levels: Who Needs It?
Your blood cholesterol level has a lot to do with your chances of getting heart disease. High blood cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. A risk factor is a condition that increases your chance of getting a disease. In fact, the higher your blood cholesterol level, the greater your risk for developing heart disease or having a heart attack. Heart disease is the number one killer of women and men in the United States. Each year, more than 1 million Americans have heart attacks, and about half a million people die from heart disease.
Have your cholesterol levels checked by your physician yearly and become proactive if your levels are higher by speaking with your doctor and changing your diet, decreasing your weight (if you are overweight), and increasing your physical activity.
Who needs it? Everyone should have their iron levels checked (through a blood test) to make sure you’re not anemic. You may not notice the symptoms of anemia, as it can develop slowly with mild symptoms and you will usually only notice once your anemia gets worse, and you may experience the following:
- Feel weak and tire out more easily.
- Feel dizzy.
- Be grumpy or cranky.
- Have headaches.
- Pale skin.
- Feel short of breath.
- Trouble concentrating.
What To Do?
If you have experienced any of the above symptoms, consult with your physician to confirm that it is anemia. Usually your doctor will have you increase your iron levels, but please do not play physician with yourself or others as this could have very serious consequences.
Who needs it? All women over the age of 21 and especially those who have a family history of breast cancer.
Why? Breast cancer with early detection can save hundreds of thousands of lives! Don’t be fooled! Men can also have breast cancer and will also need to check for any noticeable, or invisible to the eye and noticeable to the touch. Mammograms as well as monthly SBE (Self Breast Exam) can help save your life as well as those you love.
Knowing Your Bone Density
Who Needs It? According to guidelines by the National Osteoporosis Foundation, all women 65+ years old and all men 70+ should have a bone density test. Women younger than 65 who are postmenopausal with at least one risk factor and men aged 50 to 70 with at least one risk factor should also have the test done.
Other recommendations for a bone density test include any man or woman over 50 who has suffered a broken bone, postmenopausal women who have stopped hormone replacement therapy and women going through menopause who have certain risk factors. Your doctor may also recommend the test if you have a medical condition or disease or have taken medications that can contribute to bone loss. In some cases, men with prostate cancer and women with breast cancer who have undergone certain treatments should have a bone density test.
Why? A bone density test, also called a bone mineral density (BMD) test, reveals information about the overall health of your bones. As people grow older, they often develop osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones lose strength, mass and density. Certain health conditions and medications can also cause bone loss. The only way to identify low bone density and diagnose osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, is to have a bone density test. This is significant because, if detected early, osteoporosis can be treated and prevented.
Knowing Your Body Weight
Who Needs It? Everyone! Although we sometimes don’t like to do so, getting weighed at your doctor’s office is very important, as well as weighing yourself at home.
Why? Although our weight can fluctuate daily (or so it seems) your physician will be able to base any weight gain or weight loss on factors that may be positive or negative reasons. Medications, age, stress factors and your overall health can all contribute to weight gain and or weight loss.
Body Fat Percentage
Who Needs It? Everyone over the age of 13. Why? Although it’s good to know and keep on track with your weight, knowing your body fat percentage is much more important. Body fat is that layer that is below your skin and above your muscle. If you have ever wanted to have lean muscle, the first thing you need to do is find out how much body fat you need to lose (not overall body weight).
One of the most important reasons to know your body fat percentage is so that you’re able to get a realistic picture of your own body in terms of health. When you only base your results on your weight, please realize that this is a one-dimensional way of viewing your body and your results.
You could have two people who are the same weight and same height but they could look very different based upon their body fat levels and could have totally different health check results. And yes, it all comes from the fact that muscle tissue and fat tissue look, feel and weigh differently from each other.
So a person who weighs 140 pounds and has 18% body fat would look relatively lean. While a person at the same height and weight but with 33% body fat, would visibly look overweight and be considered “obese”, based upon their body fat percentage. This is why it’s so important to know your body fat percentage since only weighing yourself will not give you the true picture.
Prostate Exam (males)
Who Needs It? If you have urinary problems such as not being able to urinate at all, having a hard time starting or stopping the flow of urine, having to urinate often especially at night, or having pain or burning during urination. Also, if you have difficulty getting an erection, you have blood in your urine or semen, or if you have deep and frequent pain in your lower back, belly, hips or pelvis.
What is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in a man’s prostate gland. The prostate sits just below the bladder. It makes part of the fluid for semen. In young men, the prostate is about the size of a walnut. It usually grows larger as you grow older.
Prostate cancer is common in men older than 65. It usually grows slowly and can take years to grow large enough to cause any problems. As with other cancers, treatment for prostate cancer works best when the cancer is found early. Often, prostate cancer that has spread responds to treatment. Older men with prostate cancer usually die from other causes. Experts don’t know what causes prostate cancer but they believe that a person’s age, family history (genetics) and race affect the chances of getting it. What you eat, such as foods high in fats, may also play a part.
What Are The Symptoms?
Prostate cancer usually does not cause symptoms in its early stages. Most men don’t know they have it until it is found during a regular medical exam. When problems are noticed they are most often problems with urinating. But these same symptoms can also be caused by an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia). An enlarged prostate is common in older men.
How is Prostate Cancer Diagnosed?
The most common way to check for prostate cancer is to have a digital rectal exam in which the doctor puts a gloved, lubricated finger in your rectum to feel your prostate and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. A higher level of PSA may mean that you have prostate cancer, but it could also mean that you have an enlargement or infection of the prostate.
If your PSA is high, or if your doctor finds anything during the rectal exam, he or she may do a prostate biopsy to figure out the cause. A biopsy means your doctor takes a sample of tissue from your prostate gland and sends it to a lab for testing.
Why? It is important to have regular health checkups including a digital rectal exam. But experts agree that PSA testing is not right for all men. Testing could lead you to have cancer treatments that you do not need. Cancer treatments may cause other health problems such as loss of bladder control and not being able to have an erection. So talk with your doctor and ask about your risk for prostate cancer and discuss the pros and cons of PSA testing.
Who Needs It? Everyone! All Adults, children and mature adults. Why? As we age, our eyesight can change both gradually and rapidly. What you could see clearly last year, can be a little blurry this year. Nearsighted (can’t see far away), farsighted (can’t see close up), and astigmatism, can developed seemingly overnight. Glaucoma and other eye concerns can develop as we age. Having your eyes checked by your optometrist or ophthalmologist can save your eyes and in many cases your life and the life of others.