6 Numbers Every Woman Should Know

You keep an eye on your cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight. But these aren't the only numbers women should be watching when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. From blood sugar to bone density, we've found the top six vital indicators of wellness.

1. Know your fasting blood sugar.

Many people with diabetes or prediabetes don't know they have it. The best way to screen for the disease is with a fasting blood sugar test, which requires not eating for at least eight hours, then a trip to the doctor's office and a simple blood draw.

The Number: 100. The ideal range is less than 100 milligrams per deciliter of blood. Between 100 and 125 indicates prediabetes.

Take Action: If you're above 100, your doctor will discuss your options, which may include lifestyle changes and medication.

Belly fat is a more telling predictor of your health than the number you see on the bathroom scale, says Dr. Marie Savard, a Philadelphia internist and author of Ask Dr. Marie. 

The Number: 0.8. Measure your waist where a belt would go. Then measure your hips at their widest point. Now do the math: Divide waist number by hips number. The result should be 0.8 or lower.

Take Action: If it's not, start exercising. A Duke University study found that participants who briskly walked for 30 minutes at least six days a week lost the most fat.

Thinning bones may lead to fracture, so it's important to check bone density, especially if you are older than 50 or post-menopausal. The test involves a special kind of X-ray that provides a "T-score." Your T-score compares your current bone density to that of a healthy 30-year-old who presumably has peak bone mass.

The Number: Above -1. A healthy T-score is above -1. If you aren't where you should be, your doctor will let you know.

Take Action: Increasing calcium intake is essential if your T-score is low. Exercise can also increase bone mass.

Recent research has found that a deficiency of vitamin D, the so-called sunshine vitamin, may increase risk of osteoporosis, breast cancer, hypertension, and multiple sclerosis.

The Number: 35. You want to have circulating levels of vitamin D higher than 35 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter), measured by a blood test.

Take Action: Fifteen minutes of sun exposure on bare arms, face, or neck two to three times a week boosts D levels without causing sunburn, according to Dr. Shelley Wroth, a physician at the Duke University Center for Integrative Medicine.

Thyroid problems become more common as we age, and symptoms can mimic those of other conditions. A thyroid-stimulating hormone test -- a simple blood test -- diagnoses thyroid problems.

The Number: 0.4–4.0 mIU/L (milli-international units per liter). Some labs may report this differently, so have your doctor explain the results.

Take Action: There isn't much you can do on your own. If your numbers indicate a problem, your doctor will go over medication options with you.

When women are depressed, they may not exhibit signs of hopelessness or sadness. Instead, they may experience low energy, difficulty concentrating, and odd aches and pains, says Dr. Kristin Leight, a psychiatrist at Columbia University.

There is no blood test to check for depression, but there is an easy screening scale.

The Number: 5

If you experience five or more of the following symptoms for two weeks in a row or more, you may suffer from depression:

• Sadness

• Irritability

• Hopelessness

• Low energy or fatigue

• Feelings of guilt or worthlessness

• Significant weight change (loss or gain) if you aren't dieting

• Difficulty concentrating

• Loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities

Take Action: If you recognize yourself too often in this list, talk to your family doctor. If you have a few symptoms, but not five, do something to offset depressive inclinations. "Rather than isolate yourself, make social plans. Instead of lying in front of the television, get outside for half an hour," says Leight. "I also prescribe one pleasurable activity per day." You pick what that is.  


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