Dr. Rachel: The Five Numbers for a Long, Healthy Life

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You know how old you are.  That’s one number you know. If you want that number to keep increasing, then you need to know these other five numbers.

The 5th most important number to know is your blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is 120/80. High blood pressure is known as the silent killer.  So, check your pressure.

The 4th number to know is your body mass index or BMI. Your BMI tells you if you are normal weight, overweight, obese, or morbidly obese. A normal BMI is less than 25.  You can go on the internet to calculate your BMI.

The 3rd number is your fasting blood sugar. If your fasting blood sugar is higher than 100 then you are pre-diabetic and at risk for diabetes which can lead to many health problems.

The 2nd need-to-know number is your cholesterol–not so much your total cholesterol–but your HDL, or “good,” cholesterol and your LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol.  HDL should be greater than 50 and LDL should be less than 100.

And, the most important number to know is your waist measurement around your belly button. If you put on weight around your hips, you are pear-shaped. If you put on weight around your middle, you are apple-shaped.

If you’re overweight and apple-shaped, you have a much higher risk of health problems than if you’re pear-shaped.

For women, health risks start when your waist is more than 35 inches. And for men, your risks increase with a waist over 40 inches.

If you can get these five numbers where they should be, your age number should get bigger and bigger.


High blood pressure

Blood Pressure (BP)Category  Systolic (mmHg)Upper number Diastolic (mmHg)Lower number
Normal Less than 120 Less than 80
Pre-hypertension(start working on lower your BP) 120- 139 80- 89
High blood pressureStage 1 140-159 90-99
High blood pressureStage 2 160 or higher 100 or higher
High blood pressure CrisisGET TO AN EMERGENCY ROOM!! 180 or higher

Fasting Blood sugar

Category Minimum value(mg/dl) Maximum value(mg/dl) 2 hours after eating(mg/dl)
Normal 70 100 Less than 140
Pre-diabetes 101 126 140-200


Total Cholesterol (mg/dL)

Desirable Less than 200
Borderline High 200- 239
High Cholesterol 240 or higher

LDL “The Bad” Cholesterol


Ideal(if you are high risk for heart disease) Less than 70
Ideal Less than 100
Near ideal 100-129
Borderline high 130-159
High 160-189
Very high Greater than 190

HDL “The Good” Cholesterol


Optimal 60 or higher
Ok Men         40-49Women    50-59
Poor Men         less than 40Women    less than 50



Optimal Less than 100
Normal Less than 150
Borderline high 150-199
High 200-499
Very high Greater than 500


Body Mass Index


 Weight Status   BMI
Underweight Below 18.5
Normal weight 18.5- 24.9
Overweight 25- 29.9
Obese 30- 39.9
Morbid  “high risk” obesity Over 40

Waist circumference

To measure your waist circumference, use a tape measure. Bring it all the way around your belly at the level of your belly button. Make sure it is not too tight.

A high-risk waist circumference is:

Men Over 40 inches
Women Over 35 inches

Apple shapes increase you risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancers, metabolic problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and premature death than pear shapes.