Friday, November 12, 2010

Knowing My Numbers

I'm not much of a math person, but I'm strangely drawn toward stats. So when the opportunity to find out in some quantifiable way how healthy I really am came around, I was more than curious.

After stopping by the Manchester City Marathon Expo last week, I cautiously stepped onto the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Health Bus. I didn't know quite what to expect.

A health screening done aboard a traveling bus? I was skeptical - and, admittedly, the slight germ-aphobe in me was a little freaked out.

I was pleasantly surprised when I walked in to a well-lit and clean bus, complete with a "waiting room" area and two private screening rooms. I filled out the necessary paperwork and was quickly called into one of the side rooms.

There, a friendly nurse quickly and efficiently ran the tests. It was a whirlwind procedure. She quickly secured the blood pressure cuff, hooked up to a laptop, to my right arm and started the blood screening on my left side.

A quick pin-prick to my finger and my blood was on a slide and into a digital reader before I knew it. I then hopped on the scale and the nurse measured by waist.

In all, the screening took less than 10 minutes. Time well spent, if you ask me. I had a short wait while the results were being processed, during which time I had a pleasant chat with the staff on board the bus.

In a matter of minutes, the nurse handed me a personalized printout of my results. It was comprehensive and easy to read. My numbers appeared in one column, with the ideal numbers next to it - cholesterol, heart rate, blood glucose, all of the basics of a good health screening.

Anything outside the recommended range was listed in red, just like the teacher's pen that marked up errors on homework when I was younger.

And just like the times my teachers noted my mistakes, my eyes were drawn to the red. My blood pressure was slightly high and it seems as if I could stand to drop my BMI (body mass index) by a tenth of a percent.

Overall, nothing alarming. Seeing those numbers in red really just told me what I already knew. It probably wouldn't hurt to watch what I eat a little more carefully. And I should keep doing what I'm doing to keep my blood glucose, heart rate and cholesterol in check.

The printout, which also directed me to a personalized website with more information, showed me how I fared compared to other women my age and detailed what I could do to cut down my risk factors.

I consider myself to be healthy. I exercise consistently and lead, for the most part, a healthy lifestyle. I rarely get sick and hardly ever visit a doctor, except for the occasional routine check-up.

Mostly, I fall into a low-risk category when it comes to heart disease or blood pressure problems. To be perfectly honest, it was always just an assumption of mine.

I haven't had my numbers run in quite a while. Back then, everything came back a-okay - healthy heart rate, ideal cholesterol, low blood pressure.

That was five or so years go. Since then, I simply couldn't be bothered to go get retested. After all, my numbers were fine and I didn't seem to be in any imminent danger. If anything, I lead a healthier lifestyle than I did five years ago.

Plus, taking time out of my schedule for a doctor's appointment and paying for any portion not covered by insurance just wasn't a priority. Thinking like that can be dangerous, I know. But I'm sure I'm not the only one who does.

Earlier in the week, I attended the annual Go Red Luncheon presented by the American Heart Association. I listened to the personal stories shared by those who were unexpectedly affected by heart problems. No one ever thinks it's going to happen to them.

Having my health report card in front of me in black and white (and in some cases red), has already helped me take small steps to improving my health - a smaller dinner portion, perhaps, or forgoing a bit of salt on my food.

It's my hope and personal goal that I'll have a black-only report card when I go back next year so I can be as healthy inside and I am outside.

I know my numbers. Do you?

**REMEMBER, I'm running the Boston Marathon to help save lives! Please visit my fundraising page to support a good cause and learn more about a very special little boy. ...THANK YOU for your support!**

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