Health By Numbers

By Karen Asp
Posted On Jan 19, 2017
Health By Numbers

If you think your weight and your partner’s birthday are the only digits worth noting, think again. These 11 numbers are the key to a clean bill of health. 

5 Cups of Fruits and Veggies You Should Eat Daily

Loading produce onto your plate gives you a healthy dose of disease-fighting antioxidants and allows for healthy gut bacteria to thrive, says Pamela Peeke, M.D., M.P.H., and author of Body for Life for Women (Rodale). Aim for three cups of veggies, even though guidelines for women call for less. “Pile on greens like spinach and kale,” Peeke says, along with two cups of fruits a day. And pay attention to your palette: Remember to eat five different colors of fruits and vegetables daily.

7,500 Steps Daily

No doubt you’ve heard of or taken part in a 10,000 steps a day challenge. Yet if you’re going by government guidelines, you should be logging about 7,500 steps a day, in addition to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly. “This is the minimum amount a healthy adult should aim for,” says Catrine Tudor-Locke, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, who insists that more is better. Before you hit the pavement with a pedometer, test it first by taking 20 steps. If the count falls between 19 and 21, that’s within a good margin of error.

35 Inches, Maximum Waistline

If your waistline measures 35 inches or more, that’s a red flag, no matter what the scale says. The concern? Toxic visceral fat, which is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease, and cancer, Peeke says.

20-30 Grams of Fiber Every Day

According to the National Fiber Council, adults on average ingest only 10 to 15 grams daily through diet, but you should shoot for 20 to 30 grams. That will keep your bowel movements regular and ward of disease-promoting inflammation, says New York City gastroenterologist Valerie Antoine-Gustave, M.D., M.P.H.

100 Mg/dL, Maximum Triglyceride Level

Total cholesterol usually steals the spotlight, but triglycerides—fat in blood—may be more critical. “Higher triglyceride levels raise heart-disease risk in women,” says Caroline Cederquist, M.D., weight management physician in Naples, Florida, and author of  The MD Factor Diet (BenBella Books, Inc.). While levels below 150 mg/dL are normal, ideally, you should be under 100 mg/dL. To lower your levels, decrease your intake of simple sugars and simple carbohydrates, says Cederquist.

1,500 Milligrams, Maximum Amount of Sodium Per Day

While you need salt to survive, too much of it can lead to high blood pressure and increase your risk of heart-attack risk, says Laxmi Mehta, M.D., clinical director of the Women’s Cardiovascular Health Program at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. Like sugar, salt is hidden in many processed foods, so stick to whole foods and ditch the salt-shaker habit.

15 Friends in Your Inner Circles

Friendships consist of various layers, but the center two make up the strongest bonds. “The interaction you have with these layers stimulates the production of endorphins, the brain’s natural pain killer, and boosts the immune system to help you resist diseases,” says Robin Dunbar, Ph.D., professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. Your first layer contains five friends and family who provide you the most emotional support. Those 10 in your second layer are your best friends with whom you spend most of your time.

1 Alcoholic Beverage Each Day

Alcohol in moderation does have its benefits, including lowering incidents of diabetes and reducing heart-disease risk, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Stick to no more than a drink a day, says Peeke, but women with a family history of alcoholism should nix alcohol. Didn’t get your one a day? Just as you can’t bank lost sleep, you can’t bank missed drinks.

600 International Units (IU),  Minimum Amount of Vitamin D

If you’re not spending enough time in the sun, you may be low in vitamin D, which has been associated with numerous benefits, including protection from depression and stronger bones, Peeke says. Yet guidelines of 600 IU fall short of what numerous organizations recommend. The Vitamin D Council, for one, suggests adults get 5,000 IU daily. Get your vitamin D levels tested so you know how much is right for you.

7-9 Hours of Sleep

The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults ages 26 to 64 get seven to nine hours of shut-eye a night. Six hours may be okay for some people; just don’t dip below that.

6 Teaspoons, Maximum, of Added Sugar in a Day

The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar daily, which may be responsible for the rise in obesity and diabetes, says Mehta. New labeling laws will soon make it easier to spot hidden sugars. Until then, cut your intake by eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages, choosing whole foods over processed foods, and limiting sugar-laden condiments like ketchup.