3 health numbers men should know
Men can be stubborn. That certainly isn’t breaking news. But when it comes to their health, stubbornness could be deadly.
Dr. Paul Crawford, a nephrologist at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago, says he often runs into two different interactions with male patients. It all depends on whether they go to the doctor alone or with their wives or significant others.
“A patient will come to an appointment without his wife. You start asking him if he feels chest pains, digestive problems, soreness or other conditions. He will say no to all of them,” explains Dr. Crawford. “The next visit, the patient brings his wife. You ask him the same questions, and he’s about to say no again, and then his wife will chime in saying, ‘Remember you were feeling pains in your chest last week?’ Or she will say, ‘Remember you had problems digesting yesterday?’ And then he will finally admit it and say, ‘Yes,’” says Dr. Crawford.
With June being Men’s Health Month, Crawford says there are three numbers all men should know off the top of their heads about their health.
Blood pressure numbers
The top number, or systolic, the larger of the two figures, measures pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. The lower number, or diastolic, measures the pressure of arteries between heartbeats when the heart muscle is resting and refilling with blood.
High blood pressure is a condition that is often managed with medication by the time it gets to dire points.
“Too often, I ask the question, ‘What is your blood pressure typically?’ and they might know one number or the other, but not both,” Dr. Crawford says. “We are trying to prevent stokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure and kidney failure. These are all things that are very high in the Chicago area. You want people to know if their numbers are high and how they can control it.”
Blood sugar number
Normal blood glucose levels range from 70 to 120 mg/DL and sometimes slightly higher after eating. If you have hypoglycemia, meaning your blood sugar levels fall too low, you can experience shaking, fast heartbeat, dizziness, headaches or weakness. If you have hyperglycemia, high blood glucose levels and a myriad of other symptoms could occur, including blurred vision and increased urination. Either condition can be life-threatening, he says.
“If you are diabetic, you have a responsibility to know your blood sugar reading. It is all about taking ownership of your own health,” Dr. Crawford says. “This is not something you can take lightly. And those who have high blood pressure on top of diabetes have double jeopardy so they need to watch out even more.”
Below 200 is the ideal number for cholesterol, according to the American Heart Association. When the numbers start hitting 240 and higher, that can be a dangerous limit.
“This is the one thing that people seem to understand as an important number to know,” Dr. Crawford says. “And for the most part when I talk to patients, they do know their cholesterol numbers. The next step is helping them know the difference between good and bad cholesterol.”
Overall, medical experts say men need to stop the macho, tough-guy act and understand they are just as vulnerable as anyone else.
“This whole philosophy that ‘I am a man, and there is nothing wrong with me’ is ridiculous,” Dr. Crawford says. “There are a whole lot of people who go to the grave saying, ‘I feel just fine’ until the day they die. I know we don’t want to admit frailness or weakness, but we have to own up to both taking care of ourselves and any sickness we may have. Don’t wait until a catastrophe happens.”
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.