Know Your Numbers

Tracey Sullivan Pharmacy Features Writer

The start of a new year is a good time to review your health and wellbeing and may be a catalyst to make some long-term changes that have a positive effect on your overall health. Many of us set New Year’s resolutions to eat better, work on our fitness, or cut down on alcohol, but how many of us set a goal of getting our health and well-being checked and getting to ‘know our numbers’?


How often do I need a health check?
Setting some time aside at the start of the year to make an appointment with your GP for a full medical check would be a great resolution, especially if you haven’t had a health check for some time. Not everyone will need to do this annually. Older adults and those with chronic health conditions would likely benefit from an annual visit, but younger people in good health may only need to see a health professional every two to three years. Discuss with your health professional how often you should have a check.

It’s easier to remember if it’s the same time every year, even if its just giving yourself some time to write down what screenings or vaccinations you think may be due for you or your loved ones.


‘Know Your Numbers’
There are five numbers that when looked at together are a good indicator of your current health. Knowing and remembering these numbers and monitoring how they change over time can be really useful in determining whether you are at risk for certain health conditions in the future. These numbers are:

  • Blood pressure – the Heart Foundation considers a blood pressure of 120/75 or lower to be ideal. High blood pressure is a consistent reading of around 140/90 or higher.
  • Total cholesterol/HDL ratio – this ratio estimates your risk of heart attack and stroke and should be less than 4.0. This is a ratio of the total cholesterol in your blood to the HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) – a healthy BMI is considered to be between 18 to 25. Over 25 means you are at higher risk of obesity-related diseases such as heart attack, stroke and cancer.
  • Blood glucose levels – a normal blood glucose level has a range between 3.9 and 5.6 mmol/L. If it is over this, it needs to be monitored closely and lifestyle changes can have a big impact to reduce the onset of type 2 diabetes.
  • Heart rate – a normal resting heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute, and has a regular pulse. An irregular pulse (races at rest, pauses, misses or adds a beat, or one that is unusually slow) can be a sign of a heart condition.


What gets checked at a full health check?
A full health check takes longer than a usual 15-minute allocated appointment time – allow up to one hour for an appointment. There will be a financial cost that will vary depending on the medical centre and what tests and examinations are covered during the check.

A full health check is likely to include or look at:

  • a general medical exam
  • blood and/or urine tests for diabetes, cholesterol, kidney, thyroid and liver health
  • prostate
  • heart rate
  • blood pressure
  • weight/height measurements
  • discussion of significant life events
  • any changes you’ve noticed to your health
  • family medical history
  • current medicines
  • recommended vaccinations or screenings due (e.g. mammograms, cervical smears)
  • lung health
  • ear and eye check
  • lifestyle changes to maintain or improve health.


If any areas of concern are found, your doctor wiIl work with you to come up with a plan to improve your health. This may include further tests, medications and/or lifestyle factors.

It is often easier to stick with lifestyle changes and resolutions if you know the reason why you need to keep up with them. Knowing your numbers and watching them improve over time can be helpful in keeping focused on maintaining lifestyle changes and inspire you to keep consistent even on hard days!

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