Our health should be a priority for all of us – but an alarming amount of Brits just aren’t armed with enough basic knowledge to look after themselves properly.
New research shows many are flummoxed by what blood type they are, what Body Mass Index (BMI) means and even what their resting heart rate should be.
Out of 2,000 adults quizzed, a mere 37 per cent knew their blood type, with just under a quarter aware of their BMI.
Just 23 per cent understood what their resting heart rate should be, 37 per cent didn’t know where their heart and brain were, while a mere 22 per cent could point to their gallbladder.
Dr Chun Tang, medical director from private healthcare provider Pall Mall Medical, which commissioned the research, said: “It’s important we all try to have a good understanding of what it means to be healthy.
“Having knowledge about health allows people to make good choices when it comes to diet, lifestyle and be aware of what to look out for when things might go wrong.
“Our health is one of the most important things we have to look after, and it should be a priority for all of us.”
Worryingly, the survey revealed just 19 per cent felt they managed their health well, with a third now less likely to call their GP since the pandemic kicked off.
How many vital health markers are you actually aware of?
It isn’t all about weight
From glossy magazines to well-meaning health websites, the emphasis on our weight is far from the main health marker we should be paying attention to, says American media site CNET
It’s easy to focus on a number on a scale – but how much we weigh really isn’t a great indicator of how healthy we are.
For a start, your weight yo-yo’s from hour to hour due to food, exercise, salt intake and even the weather!
Put plainly, your weight alone really doesn’t paint the full picture.
It doesn’t take into account how much muscle and fat you have and whether or not you are working out and building muscle.
This is an important distinction, as muscle weighs twice as much as fat.
So what actually are the other important health markers?
High blood pressure, widely known as ‘the silent killer’, means the force exerted against the artery walls is much larger than it should be.
This puts extra strain on your heart and increases the risk of a heart attack, heart disease or stroke.
Unfortunately, there are no real obvious symptoms until it’s too late, so it’s important to get it checked out.
Thankfully there are many things you can do to lower blood pressure without using medications; these include drinking less alcohol, limiting salt, not smoking and taking more exercise.
How to measure: Simply ask a doctor to check your levels.
The top number is the systolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure on the blood vessel walls when your heart beats or contracts. While the bottom number is the diastolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure on your blood vessels between beats when your heart is relaxing.
Resting heart rate
This is a very useful health metric. According to a study by the World Health Organization (WHO), elevated resting heart rates strongly correlate with high blood pressure, and in turn cardiovascular mortality.
A normal resting heart rate can vary from anywhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute, though if you’re fit enough it can be even lower. It isn’t uncommon for elite sports people to have a resting heart rate below 50.
At the other end of the scale, a very high resting heart rate – tachycardia – can be a serious medical emergency.
Monitoring average levels can be a good indicator of overall health, with a resting heart rate tending to rise when stressed, exercising less or simply not getting enough sleep.
How to measure: Simply find your pulse either on your neck or the inside of your wrist.
To get the most accurate reading, set a timer for 60 seconds and count the total number of beats.
To get a true resting heart rate, it’s a good idea to do this first thing in the morning before you get out of bed.
Heart rate recovery
How quickly your heart rate returns to normal after exercise is another useful health marker.
People who exercise a lot can expect this ‘recovery window’ to be fairly rapid.
It also correlates with your risk of cardiovascular disease, including atrial fibrillation (a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate) and general mortality.
If you take part in regular cardiovascular exercise (such as walking, jogging or even dancing) you should be able to improve your heart rate recovery in mere months.
How to measure: You first need to get your heart rate up – either by running or star jumps. Next, simply measure your heart rate while still breathing heavily.
Chill out for two minutes then measure it again. Subtract the first number from the second number, and this is your heart rate recovery.
Generally speaking, your heart rate recovery should be between 22-52 beats per minute, although anywhere above 12 is a decent figure. A heart rate recovery lower than 12 is associated with heart issues and type-2 diabetes.
How to measure: The World Health Organization states waist measurement is taken at the midpoint between the last rib and the top of your pelvis. The hip circumference is measured at the widest point of the buttocks, making sure the tape measurement is parallel to the floor. Then simply divide the first number by the second.
The WHO defines ratios more than 0.85 for women and 0.9 for men for being at considerably higher risk for obesity-related illnesses, including heart disease and metabolic disease.
If your ratio is higher than you’re comfortable with, you’ll be pleased to know it can be changed.
A study back in 2011 suggested a diet low in processed foods may lower your waist-to-hip ratio.
The NHS states that more than two in five people in England have high cholesterol, making them twice as likely to develop heart disease.
It is important to realise that cholesterol, which is found in every cell, isn’t all bad, and actually plays a vital role in the health of your body. It helps to create the cell membrane that protects all the ‘good’ stuff inside.
Usually when medical experts discuss cholesterol they’re usually referring to LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol. There’s also HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol.
Bad cholesterol can be combated with a healthy diet low in processed food, exercising and quitting smoking. As we age, our cholesterol naturally rises. If necessary, medication such as statins can help to bring it down.
How to measure: Ask your doctor for a blood panel, which should give you a detailed report.
This is a fundamental immune process involving white blood cells, but one that can sometimes go into overdrive. For example, if you cut your finger on a piece of paper, the inflammatory response instructs the white blood cells to flood the injury site and heal it, resulting in that familiar redness and swelling.
But it is possible for this well-meaning process to sometimes work against you.
The Johns Hopkins Health Review reports it plays a role in several common diseases, such as heart disease, arthritis, and even cancer.
Inflammation has been linked to a stress response, so if you are aware of more swelling it could well be a good indicator of mental health.
There are a number of things you can do to relieve stress, such as daily walks, meditation and getting better sleep.
How to measure: This health marker can be a little trickier to measure, but too much inflammation could make itself known through redness, swelling and pain around joints. Other indicators include psoriasis (dry, flaky skin), as well as chronic bloating.