News flash: The number of Twitter followers or Facebook friends are not the most important numbers for anyone to keep track of. But leading a long, healthy life means taking care of certain numbers today — like how many hours of sleep we get each night, and how much sugar we should limit ourselves to each day. So it’s time to start number crunching! Here are 16 health stats every 20-something (or really anyone) should know!
The Number Games — The Need-to-Know
- Keep blood pressure below 120/80. This may make your blood boil: Nearly one in five young adults (ages 24-32) suffer from high blood pressure Discordance in national estimates of hypertension among young adults. Nguyen, Q.C., Tabor, J.W., Entzel, P.P., et al. Department of Epidemiology, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Chapel Hill, NC. Epidemiology, 2011 Jul;22(4):532-41.. Healthy blood pressure should be below 120/80; the top number measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (systolic), and the bottom number measures that pressure between the beats (diastolic). Any higher than that, and we’re at higher risk for heart attack and stroke, and heart, kidney, and vascular diseases. Staying active and eating right are surefire ways to keep it low. And that squeezing cuff around the arm that measures blood pressure? It’s called a sphygmomanometer (say what?!) and can easily give your numbers at a quick doctors visit.
- Keep alcohol consumption moderate — one drink per day for women, two for men. (Or at least try.) Alcohol can have some health benefits — but only when enjoyed in moderation! But beer pong must be popular, since a recent study found that one in six adults binge drink up to four times a month Vital signs: binge drinking prevalence, frequency, and intensity among adults - United States, 2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2012 Jan 13;61:14-9.. To lower risks for high blood pressure, liver damage, and the worst hangover known to humankind, take a chill pill at the bar. (Just kidding — don’t take any pills at a bar!)
- Keep salt intake to less than one teaspoon per day. We know the stadium-style soft pretzels are irresistible, but try to refrain. The recommended daily intake for sodium is 2,300 mg (about one teaspoon), but most Americans well surpass that, averaging about 3,400 mg per day! Too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, so eat fresh foods and pay close attention to nutrition labels to keep sodium consumption under control.
- Complete 150 minutes of aerobic exercise every week. Move like Mick Jagger and remember to fit in aerobic exercise throughout the week — the benefits are endless, from keeping the heart healthy to improving memory Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory. Erickson, K., Voss, M., Prakash, R., et al. Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Feb 2011; 108(7):3017-22.. From half-marathon training to lower-impact workouts, 150 minutes per week of any recommended aerobic exercise will never get old.
- Strength train twice per week. We only need to count to two for this one. Strength training twice a week is what’s suggested to start reaping countless health benefits, from boosted metabolism to getting better in bed Effect of acute resistance exercise on postexercise oxygen consumption and resting metabolic rate in young women. Osterberg, KL, Melby, CL. Dept. of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2000 Mar;10(1):71-81. Strength training increases resting metabolic rate and norepinephrine levels in healthy 50- to 65-yr-old men. Pratley, R, Nicklas, B, Rubin, M, et al. Department of Medicine, University of Maryland at Baltimore, Maryland. Journal of Applied Physiology, 994 Jan;76(1):133-7.. So grab some weights and get started on a strength-training plan today.
- Consume no more than five teaspoons of added sugar per day for women, or nine teaspoons per day for men. Honey, this ain’t so sweet: The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar per day. That’s 350 calories! Too many sweet treats may contribute to obesity and lead to cardiovascular problems, so stick to what’s recommended Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Johnson, R.K., Appel, L.J., Brands, M., et al. Circulation, 2009 Sep 15;120(11):1011-20. Epub 2009 Aug 24. Sugar-sweetened soft drinks and obesity: a systematic review of the evidence from observational studies and interventions. Gibson, S. Sig-Nurture Ltd, 11 Woodway, Guildford, Surrey GU1 2TF, UK. Nutrition Research Reviews, 2008 Dec;21(2):134-47. Consumption of added sugars and indicators of cardiovascular disease risk among US adolescents. Welsh J.A., Sharma A., Cunningham S.A.,et. al., Nutrition and Health Science Program , Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Atlanta, GA, Circulation. 2011 Jan 25;123(3):249-57.. Swap the artificial stuff (hello, Sour Patch Kids) for natural sources like fresh fruit, or opt for flavored seltzer (or plain old water) instead of juice and soda.
- Your resting heart rate should fall below 100 beats per minute. The number of times the heart beats in one minute while at rest (savasana, anyone?) is our resting heart rate, and is a good measure of overall health and fitness. And this number should not be on the rise. High heart rates can lead to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems Resting pulse rate of children and young adults associated with blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors. Gillum, R.F. Public Health Reports, 1991 Jul-Aug; 106(4): 400–410.. So make sure it doesn’t surpass 100 beats per minute — active people can healthfully have a heart rate as low as 40! A simple way to measure is by finding your pulse and counting the number of beats for ten seconds, then multiply by six!
- Get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Getting enough sleep is a great way to ward off stress and depression, and will keep that appetite in check to avoid packing on the pounds. Aim for enough each night, and maybe give one of the many sleep trackers out there a try to measure how many Zzz’s you’re really clocking.
- Cholesterol should fall at or below 200 mg/dL. Gram and Gramps aren’t the only ones who should worry about cholesterol, a waxy, fat-like substance found in the blood. A recent study found that cholesterol levels in their 20’s and 30’s helped predict the subjects’ chances of having heart problems later in life Nonoptimal lipids commonly present in young adults and coronary calcium later in life: the CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) study. Pletcher, M.J., Bibbins-Domingo, K., Liu, K., et al. Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2010 Aug 3;153(3):137-46.. (Better grab that bowl of Cheerios now!) Levels are measured in milligrams of total cholesterol per deciliter of blood — 200 mg/dL is considered healthy. A simple blood test can measure cholesterol, and a heart-healthy diet and plenty of exercise are great ways to naturally get low.
- Your waist circumference should be no more than 35 inches for ladies, and 40 inches for men. Measuring the waist isn’t only to fit into a perfect pair of jeans. High amounts of visceral fat — aka what's under those six-pack abs and around interal organs— is linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. To keep that waistline in control, try interval training — it’s a great way to get rid of the flab, and is totally fun, too High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss. Boutcher, S.H. School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Journal of Obesity, 2011;2011:868305. Epub 2010 Nov 24.!
- Keep your fasting blood sugar levels between 70 and 100 mg/dL (don’t worry, we’ll explain what that means). Blood sugar is the amount of glucose in the blood — or basically the amount of sugar that’s circulating through your body. Controlling it early in life can help prevent diabetes down the road. A normal fasting rate (usually measured in the morning before eating) should be between 70 and 100 milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood (mg/dL), and can be tested with a simple finger prick. Getting enough exercise, eating every two-to-three hours, and avoiding sugar binges are great ways to keep blood sugar in line.
- Your BMI should fall between 18.5 and 24.9. Body mass index is measured by height and weight and can help indicate risk levels for certain health issues like heart disease and high blood pressure. Both men and women at a healthy weight should have a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9, which can easily be calculated! Remember to keep moving and eating well to keep BMI in the healthy range.
- Eat two to three cups of fruits and veggies every day. Going grocery shopping? Head to the produce aisle. Many teens may not be eating enough fruits and veggies, so now is as good as ever to get more green (or red!) on that plate. A diet high in superfoods like kale and cauliflower can help decrease the risk of many chronic diseases like cancer, and keep the scale from tipping the wrong direction Fruit and vegetable intake and overall cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). Boffetta, P., Couto, E., Wichmann, J., et al. The Tisch Cancer Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2010 Apr 21;102(8):529-37.. Aim for two cups of fruit and three cups of veggies a day; sneak ‘em in any meal to make reaching these numbers a breeze!