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Health Screening Information

Read about these important health categories and ways to improve them.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like, waxy substance found in the bloodstream and in all of your body’s cells. Cholesterol is an important part of a healthy body because it’s used for producing cell membranes, some hormones and serves other needed bodily functions, such as assisting with the digestion of dietary fat. However, too much cholesterol in the blood is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease (which leads to heart attack) and stroke.

Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is known as “bad” cholesterol. LDL contributes to fatty build-up on artery walls. High- density lipoprotein, or HDL, is known as “good” cholesterol. HDL acts as a scavenger carrying LDL away from the arteries and back to the liver. These two types of lipids, along with triglycerides and Lp(a) cholesterol, make up your total cholesterol count. 

High-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol, appears to clean the walls of blood vessels. HDL carries excess cholesterol — which otherwise might have been used to make the “plaques” that cause coronary artery disease — back to the liver for processing. Therefore, when we measure a person’s HDL cholesterol level, we’re measuring how vigorously their blood vessels are being “scrubbed” free of cholesterol.

Your cholesterol levels are an important measure of heart health. For HDL cholesterol, the higher the better. A high level of HDL seems to protect against cardiovascular diseases and low HDL cholesterol levels increase the risk for heart disease.

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the major cholesterol carrier in the blood. Since high levels of LDLs can signal medical problems, it is sometimes called the “bad” cholesterol. If too much LDL cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the walls of the arteries feeding the heart and brain.

Together with other substances, LDL can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog those arteries. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. A clot that forms near this plaque can block the blood flow to part of the heart muscle and cause a heart attack. If a clot blocks the blood flow to part of the brain, a stroke results.

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. They’re a major source of energy and the most common type of fat in your body. In normal amounts, triglycerides are important to good health.

When you eat, your body uses the calories it needs for quick energy. Any extra calories are turned into triglycerides and are stored as fat. If you regularly eat more calories than you burn, you may have high triglycerides.

High triglycerides may contribute to the hardening of the arteries or thickening of the artery walls (atherosclerosis), which increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease. In addition, high triglycerides are often a sign of other conditions that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, including obesity and metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions that includes too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels).

Avoid trans fat. Trans fatty acids are found in many of our favorite fried and prepared foods. These fats not only increase LDL cholesterol levels but also reduce HDL cholesterol levels. Look for these trans fats on the nutrition label or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils” in the ingredient list.

Choose modified-fat dairy products. These products include skim or 1% milk, low-fat yogurt, and cheese made with 2% milk.

Choose monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats, such as canola oil, avocado oil, olive oil, and the fats found in nuts like almonds and walnuts, can increase HDL cholesterol levels without increasing your total cholesterol.

Choose lean cuts of meat. Meats labeled “choice” or “select” or cuts with the word “loin” or “round” in the name are leaner and have less fat. Trim fat from meat before cooking and use healthier cooking methods (e.g. bake, broil, stew, or grill). Cut back on your portions of meat and eat foods low in saturated fats and cholesterol. Eat two portions of fish per week as it’s a good source of omega 3 fatty acids and lowers LDL.

Speak with your doctor if necessary. Follow your primary care provider’s plan for lowering your cholesterol.

Focus on fiber. Eat foods that are naturally high in fiber, especially soluble fiber which is found in oats, fruits, vegetables, flax, barley, and legumes. Aim for 25-35 grams of total fiber per day to help reduce your LDL and increase HDL.

Keep your sweet tooth in check. Foods high in simple sugars can cause triglyceride levels to creep up. In addition to candy and baked goodies, sodas and sugary drinks are packed with fructose, a known offender when it comes to high triglycerides.

Drink alcohol in moderation. Stick to one alcoholic drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men. If you like unwinding with an alcoholic drink at night, try switching to sparkling water or herbal tea.

Increase your Omega 3 intake. Try adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet, such as fish, dark green leafy vegetables, and flaxseed oil. In addition, focus on limiting your intake of saturated fats and cholesterol.

Blood Sugar

Glucose (blood sugar) is your body’s primary form of energy. Your glucose levels are measured to detect your risk for diabetes. Keeping your glucose levels within a normal range is very important to your health. Levels are tightly regulated by your body and are highest after meals and lowest before breakfast. Sometimes your body is unable to maintain glucose levels within the normal range.

  • Blood sugar levels dropping too low results in a potentially fatal condition called hypoglycemia. Symptoms may include lethargy, impaired mental functioning, irritability, and loss of consciousness.
  • Blood sugar levels that are too high result in a condition called hyperglycemia. This can cause many of the long-term health problems associated with diabetes, including eye, kidney, and nerve damage.
  • Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is hormone needed to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy needed for daily life. Both genetics and environmental factors, such as obesity and lack of exercise, appear to play roles in the development of diabetes.

The A1C test measures your average blood sugar over the last three months. Why is this important? Your A1C number will tell you if you’re experiencing low or high glucose levels at times when you may not be aware of them. If you have diabetes, the A1C will give you an idea of your level of control.

The A1C is different from the glucose test in a couple of ways. It does not require fasting—you can eat and drink normally before having the test, and it can be taken at any time of the day. The glucose test provides an indication of your current blood sugar level, while the A1C test serves as an average of your blood sugar levels 24 hours a day over a period of three months.

  • To diagnose prediabetes or type 1 or type 2 diabetes
  • To monitor your risk of prediabetes
  • To manage existing diabetes (your doctor will help you determine how many times a year you should have your A1C checked)
For those with diabetes, these A1C levels are considered controlled and uncontrolled:

  • Good control is <7.0%.
  • Uncontrolled is >7.0%

If your results are high, schedule a visit with a Diabetes Educator. They can help determine how many times a year your A1C needs to be tested, as well as your target A1C goal. Studies have shown that people with diabetes can reduce their risk of diabetes-related complications by keeping the A1C level at 7% or below.

Stick to an eating schedule. This will help you maintain blood sugar levels throughout the day. Aim for three to four meals per day or eating every four to five hours while awake. Don’t skip meals.

Manage your weight. If you’re overweight, even a small amount of weight loss (5-7%) can make a positive impact.

Stay on top of your levels. Check your blood sugars and A1C levels as directed and keep a journal to share with your primary care provider.

Follow your treatment plan if you have diabetes. Take medications as prescribed.

Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood against the walls of the arteries. It results from two forces. One is created by the heart as it pumps blood into the arteries and through the circulatory system. The other is the force of the arteries as they resist the blood flow.

  • The first (systolic) number represents the pressure when the heart contracts to pump blood to the body.
  • The second (diastolic) number represents the pressure when the heart relaxes between beats.

As a major risk factor, it’s extremely important to monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure, a primary risk factor for heart disease, is easy to detect and is controllable in most cases.

IMPORTANT: High blood pressure may have no signs or symptoms, and blood pressure tends to increase with age, so make sure you check it on a regular basis. Consult with your primary care provider about keys to preventing high blood pressure.

Limit the salt shaker. Reduce sodium in your diet by limiting fast foods and choosing less processed foods. If you eat three meals a day, stay within 800 milligrams (mg) per meal.

Drink alcohol in moderation. Stick to one alcoholic drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men. If you like unwinding with an alcoholic drink at night, try switching to sparkling water or herbal tea.

Speak with your primary care doctor as necessary. Talk to your physician and take medications as directed.

Manage your stress. Explore ways to manage stressful events or thoughts through relaxing activities like music, art, exercise, volunteering, deep breathing, or meditation – based on your individual interests.

Body

Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to determine whether you’re at risk for health problems due to your body fat level.

A person with a BMI under 25 is considered to be at a healthy weight. A person with a BMI of 25-29.9 is considered to be overweight. Someone with a BMI of 30 or greater falls into an obese range.

Please Note: A BMI score is a valid way to assess total body fat for both men and women, but it does have some limits. It may overestimate body fat in athletes and others who have a muscular build since muscle weighs more than fat. It may also underestimate body fat in older persons and others who have lost muscle mass.

The measurement of waist circumference provides information about the distribution of body fat and is a measure of risk for other conditions. It’s now well known that people who carry their excess fat centrally (within the abdominal cavity) are more likely to suffer the consequences of being overweight.

A high-risk waist circumference is:

  • A man with a waist measurement over 40 inches (102 cm)
  • A woman with a waist measurement over 35 inches (88 cm)

A high waist circumference is associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease in people with a BMI > 25.

Waist circumference can also be useful for people categorized as normal or overweight in terms of BMI. For example, an athlete with increased muscle mass may have a BMI greater than 25, making them overweight on the BMI scale, but a waist circumference measurement would most likely indicate that they, in fact, are not overweight.

Health Tips

Eat more whole foods and less processed foods. Whole foods are unrefined (or unprocessed), which means that they are as close to their natural form as possible. Think fresh fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, eggs, whole grains, or a lean cut of meat, fish, and chicken. Processed foods includes food that has been cooked, canned, frozen, packaged or changed in nutritional composition with fortifying and preserving or preparation.

Manage your stress. Explore ways to manage stressful events or thoughts through relaxing activities like music, art, exercise, volunteering, deep breathing, or meditation – based on your individual interests.

Quit tobacco and nicotine products. People with diabetes who quit tobacco gain better control over their blood sugars.

Increase physical activity. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Remember, this doesn’t have to be all at once —breaking it up into three 10-minute walks throughout the day is just as effective.

Start strength training. Simple, weight- bearing exercises that use free weights, machines, or your body’s own resistance are recommended at least twice a week. While strength training doesn’t always lower your BMI, it helps increase bone density, muscle mass, and boosts your metabolism.

Drink water over sweetened beverages. Consume plenty of water and avoid sugary drinks, which cause blood sugars to rise quickly. To stay well hydrated, you should drink a minimum of half your body weight in ounces per day.

Next Steps

After your health screening, you can schedule an appointment with any member of your care team. If you’re not sure where to start, see a health coach to develop your goals. Your care team will help you create a personal healthy living plan and serve as your navigator for all things health. We bring you easy access to the health services you need— all at no cost to you.

 

As a reminder, First Stop Health is committed to protecting your privacy and is required by law to protect your information. Everything you do with them is 100% confidential and your personal health information will never be shared.

You can find your results in your profile under the "Tests" tab or by clicking here.