Along with eating right and exercising, keeping track of key health indicators is an important part of successful aging.
Caregivers can help seniors check and track this information. Health numbers to monitor include cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose, and weight. Doing so can lower a senior’s risk for chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Tracking health numbers can also alert caregivers to medical issues early. With many health conditions, early intervention can help prevent a small problem from becoming a big one.
4 Health Numbers Caregivers Need to Know
1. Blood Pressure
Goal: 120/80 mmHG or less
What it means: The top number, called systolic pressure, indicates the pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood. Diastolic pressure (bottom number) is the lowest pressure. If the number is too high, the heart must work harder and over time it can enlarge or weaken. This can lead to heart failure, heart attack, or stroke.
2. Total Blood Cholesterol
Goal: < 180 mg/dL
What it means: There are two different types of cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (or LDL), is known as “bad” cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (or HDL), is considered “good” cholesterol. Too much bad cholesterol can clog blood vessels in the heart. A diet high in saturated and trans fat can raise bad cholesterol levels. Ideally, a senior’s total cholesterol level should be less than 200, with HDL cholesterol greater than 50 and LDL less than 100.
3. Blood Sugar
Goal: goal is < 130 mg/dL
What it means: This is the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood. An average range varies from 70-130. If a senior’s blood sugar is too high or too low, they may have diabetes. If untreated, diabetes can lead to kidney disease, blindness, and other complications. It’s an important problem to tackle early. Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, also carries health risks like seizure and coma.
4. Body Mass Index (BMI)
Goal: < 25 kg/m2
What it means: This tells you if a senior is a healthy weight for their gender, height, age, and frame. A BMI of 25 or over is considered overweight and a number over 30 indicates obesity. Carrying extra weight can lead to high cholesterol and serious illnesses such as sleep apnea. Since belly fat can be damaging, waist-to-hip ratio size is another way to screen for cardiovascular health. Risk goes up with a waist size greater than 35 inches for women or greater than 40 inches for men.
Enlist the help of the senior’s doctor to talk about cardiovascular health and to explain how often they should check their numbers.
While you can’t prevent a loved one from getting older, you can provide the encouragement they may need to take charge of their health. Staying active in retirement is a goal that caregivers can help seniors achieve. Together you can create a plan that keeps your loved one healthy and active for years to come.