For a proper understanding of your health, you must know how you stand compared to the normal, healthy condition. Here you can learn about normal blood pressure levels, blood cholesterol levels (and other lipids), and blood sugar levels (also known as blood sugar numbers).

For a proper understanding of your health, you must know how you stand compared to the normal, healthy condition. For instance, when the nurse tells you your blood pressure is "150 over 95", what does this mean; is it normal? Or if your blood sugar number is 145 mg/dL, are you diabetic? Here are some paragraphs about the most common normal numbers you should know - blood pressure, blood cholesterol (and other lipids), blood sugar, and CRP levels - taken from our Disease Digest pages.

In this article:

Blood pressure levels

Two numbers are used to describe blood pressure:

  • Systolic. The systolic pressure (the higher and first number) measures the force that blood exerts on the artery walls as the heart contracts to pump out the blood.
  • Diastolic. The diastolic pressure (the lower and second number) is the measurement of force as the heart relaxes to allow the blood to flow into the heart.

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). A blood pressure reading is written like this: 120/80 mm Hg, where 120 is the systolic, and 80 is the diastolic blood pressure.

Blood pressures are now categorized as normal, prehypertension, hypertension stage 1, or hypertension stage 2. The categories are defined in this table:

Category Systolic BP (mm Hg)   Diastolic BP (mm Hg)
Normal below 120 and below 80
Prehypertension 120 - 139 or 80 - 89
Hypertension Stage 1 140 -159 or 90 - 99
Hypertension Stage 2 160 and above or 100 and above

There are three other types of hypertension that are of particular interest:

  • Isolated Systolic Hypertension. This occurs when the systolic blood pressure is over 160 mm Hg but the diastolic pressure is normal. It's related to arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
  • Pregnancy Induced Hypertension. This condition occurs during pregnancy if blood pressure increases by more than 15 mm Hg above normal.
  • White Coat Hypertension. This form of hypertension is elevated blood pressure that occurs only during a visit to the doctor's office.

Blood lipids, including cholesterol

Lipoproteins are protein spheres that transport cholesterol, triglyceride, or other lipid molecules through the bloodstream. Most of the information about the effects of cholesterol and triglyceride actually concerns lipoproteins.

The cholesterol-carrying lipoproteins are commonly referred to as cholesterol. They comprise the low density lipoproteins (LDL), often called the "bad" cholesterol, and the high-density lipoproteins (HDL), referred to as the "good" cholesterol. The triglyceride-carrying lipoproteins are intermediate in density, and together with very-low density proteins, carry triglycerides.

  • Desirable total cholesterol: below 200 mg/dL (5.17 mmol/L)
  • Optimal LDL ('bad') cholesterol: below 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L)
  • Optimal HDL ('good') cholesterol: over 60 mg/dL (1.56 mmol/L)
  • Normal triglyceride: below 150 mg/dL (1.7 mmol/L)

Dividing the total cholesterol by the HDL cholesterol levels gives a Total/HDL ratio:

  • The ideal ratio is 3.5 or below.
  • A ratio of 4.5 carries an average risk for cardiovascular disease.

Blood sugar levels

Fasting Plasma Glucose: The American Diabetes Association has recommended the sole use of the fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test. It is a simple blood test taken after eight hours of fasting. In general, results indicate the following:

  • FPG levels are considered normal up to 100 mg/dl (or 2.6 mmol/L).
  • Levels between 110 and 125 (6.1 to 6.9 mmol/L) are referred to as impaired fasting glucose. They are only slightly above normal, but are considered to be risk factors for diabetes type 2 and its complications.
  • Diabetes is diagnosed when FPG levels are 126 mg/dl (7.0 mmol/L) or higher on two different days.

Glucose Tolerance Test: A glucose tolerance test uses the following procedure:First, an FPG test is done. A blood test is then taken two hours later after drinking a special glucose solution:

  • In people without diabetes, blood sugar increases modestly after drinking the glucose beverage and decreases after two hours.
  • In diabetes, the initial increase is significant and the level remains high, 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L) or more.
  • Measurements that fall between 140 and 200 mg/dL (7.8 to 11.1 mmol/L) put a person at risk for diabetes and are referred to as impaired glucose tolerance.

Glycosylated Hemoglobin: This test examines blood levels of glycosylated (or glycated) hemoglobin, also known as hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c). Measuring glycated hemoglobin is useful for determining the severity of diabetes. The test is not affected by food intake so it can be taken at any time. In general, measurements suggest the following:

  • Normal HbA1c levels should be below 7%.
  • A level of 8% indicates diabetes, in 98% of cases.
  • Levels above 11% indicate poor control of carbohydrates.

Two other lab tests

CRP (C-Reactive Protein):
Less than 1 mg/L: low risk of coronary artery disease (CAD)
1 to 3 mg/L: normal level, average risk of CAD
Over 3 mg/L: high risk of CHD

Total homocysteine:
Normal range is 5 to 15 micromol/L

Exercise & Blood Sugar Numbers

Exercise may cause low blood sugar numbers or high blood sugar numbers due to an increase in metabolic demands and due to the activity of insulin. Here are some ways to help prevent low or high blood sugars in diabetics who exercise:

  • Avoid injecting insulin into parts of the body which will be exerted during exercise, as exercise may prolong or shorten the time of insulin reaction.
  • Avoid exercising at the peak of insulin activity. Insulin should be administered approximately one hour before you begin exercising.
  • Avoid alcohol and beta blocker drugs around the time of exercise because they may cause low blood sugar.
  • Eat a snack just before and during exercise, and monitor your blood sugars before, during, and after exercise.
  • Keep simple carbohydrates, such as fruit juice or hard candy, and other food available. Also keep some extra insulin with you in case of emergencies.
  • If you experience pain in your chest, nausea, heart palpitations or severe shortness of breath during exercise, stop and consult your doctor.
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