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Journals can help track your body

By Holle Abee, Contributing writer
Published On: May 20 2011 11:44:27 AM CDT
diet waistline

iStockPhoto/bobbieo

People live with their bodies every day, but most rarely listen to what their bodies are telling them.

Unless some organ or other part is screaming in pain, people usually go about their daily business, never paying much attention to all their intricate internal mechanisms.

By staying on top of changes, however, problems can often be corrected before they cause damage. Some things to track include blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, weight, caloric intake, body fat and exercise.

Do you need to check all these every day? No, according to Shannon Rutland, a Georgia nurse. For most people, few of these should be checked on a daily basis.

She suggests the following guidelines:

Blood pressure -- Unless you have a history of hypertension, you should have your blood pressure checked once a week, at about the same time of day, because blood pressure fluctuates with rest, stress and activity. It's also best to use the same type of device consistently. Keep track of your blood pressure in a notebook or on a spreadsheet. If you have a pattern of elevated pressure, see your doctor.

Blood sugar -- Healthy adults should have their blood glucose checked at their annual physicals. If you check it yourself or have the pharmacy do it, complete the test two hours after eating. If you get consistent readings over 100, see your physician.

Cholesterol -- For healthy adults, cholesterol readings are done once every five years. If your cholesterol is slightly elevated, but you're not on prescription drugs for hypercholesterolemia, you should have a cholesterol test yearly. If you've been placed on statin drugs such as Lipitor or Crestor to control high cholesterol, you need blood tests every six months to test your HDL, LDL and liver enzymes.

Rutland says that these blood tests are important because statins can cause liver damage.

What numbers should you aim for? Some doctors are re-thinking their former one-size-fits-all mentality, but in general, any number below 200 for total cholesterol is desirable. Even if your level is below 200, however, you might not be safe. You need to find out your HDL and LDL levels. Your HDL, the "good" cholesterol, should be above 40, and your LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, should be below 120.

Triglycerides -- Triglyceride level is another player in the cholesterol equation, and one that most people are just beginning to understand. Basically, triglycerides are fats in the blood plasma. Some of the fats you consume become triglycerides, and your body can also make triglycerides from the carbohydrates you eat. High triglycerides are a risk factor for coronary artery disease, and some studies suggest that they're actually more indicative of the disease in women than cholesterol readings are. Your triglycerides are usually checked along with your cholesterol. A normal reading is below 150.

Weight -- One of the worst things you can do if you're watching your weight is to weigh every day, Rutland says. Weight fluctuates during the day and from one day to the next because of several factors. She suggests weighing once a week, at the same time of the day and with the same scales. Keep track of your findings in a notebook or on a computer spreadsheet. If it begins inching up, you can cut calories and increase your activity level before it gets out of hand.

Caloric intake -- If you're watching your weight, this is something you need to do on a daily basis. Read labels and search the Internet for the caloric content in the food you eat. Most adults need between 2,000 and 2,500 calories a day.

Exercise -- Keep a daily exercise journal. Try to get 30 minutes of exercise at least five times a week. Add weight training or strength training two or three days a week to tone and add muscle mass.

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