Know your health numbers


When we talk about centimeters, metres, millimeters and kilometers does it all make sense to you? When you hear about liters, gallons and millimeters what comes to mind? Learners are more acquainted with numbers of numeric and algebraic form which measure height, weight, width and other parameters.

In health and wellness assisting your teachers and learners to understand different health parameters such as blood pressure, body fat percentage and other variables can produce sustainable health behaviour change.

In health promotion, knowing and understanding numbers has become more of health seeking behaviour. Identifying which numbers to know and understand makes the job easier.

Virgin Active periodically carries out wellness days for its staff. As part of this day staff have access to get free HIV testing and measuring of Body Mass Index, Body fat percentage, waist size,  blood pressure and other health related information. For teachers and learners these might seem as complicated or sophisticated numbers but only through educating will simplify the job.

Can you actually make the necessary health behaviour changes through knowing these numbers? What do these numbers or dimensions tell you about your health status? As much as numbers about objects can describe a lot about its size, width and length; health related numbers can also give a brief description of a person’s health status. They can actually act as a dashboard and give us a numerical view of that which is taking place inside the body that we cannot see. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Body fat percentage (%)
Body fat percentage is the percentage of body fat in relation to total weight and is shown generally as a percentage (%). Body fat protects organs, cushions joints, controls temperature, stores vitamins and acts as an energy store for the body. Too much body fat can lead to adverse effects in terms of health i.e. blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Obesity values outside the healthy body fat range lead, to a significantly higher risk of health problems. If too much fat is consumed from food i.e. more than the body’s energy requirements, it will be stored in the body in greater quantities. Body fat is a complex area of human health.

Blood Pressure
When I went for my first blood pressure test I kept wondering why the doctor kept pumping air into a balloonlike structure that made my hand feel compressed.

He kept on writing small numbers in a note book and I could only wonder what these numbers meant. Blood Pressure is one of the most vital forms of health screening and a predictor in diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk. Blood pressure is the force of blood moving through your arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. High blood pressure is when your blood pressure is usually higher than it should be and is known for leading to hypertension which is a major cause of deaths worldwide. It’s like a car tire with too much air in it. If the tyre pressure is not lowered, there is risk for tire damage. If your high blood pressure is not lowered, there is risk for damage to your eyes, brain, heart, blood vessels, and kidneys.

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