Quick: What numbers are burned into your brain cells? Your PIN? Your sweetheart’s cell phone digits? Your GPA? 867-5309 (for you music fans)? There’s lots of numbers we keep track of for everyday usage, but not many of them have to do with promoting good health. That’s a shame, says Kathy Belcher, Program Coordinator for Southeast Dairy, because too often folks don’t figure up the whole equation.
“We memorize lots of numbers,” said Belcher, “but sometimes we’re lacking in really important numbers that affect family health.”
To that end, Belcher highlighted a set of numbers designed to allow Kentucky families to calculate their own good health:
One — the number of annual check-ups each individual should undergo per year. Sure, it can be a pain — who has time to spend to a chunk of their busy work day waiting in a doctor’s office when nothing is seriously wrong? — but as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure ... and thousands of dollars in hospital bills.
“We all know we’re supposed to go for our annual physical, but if you’re like me, you have one nearly every decade,” quipped Belcher.
Nevertheless, all it takes is just one check-up per year to keep physical problems in check, says Belcher.
“(It’s to) find out if there’s preventative measures you need to take,” said Belcher. “That’s the place to start.”
Five — the number of times that we should strive to eat together as a family each week, according to Belcher. If you’re scoring at home, that’s every weeknight — and maybe making up for a missed date on the weekend if the kids have soccer practice on Thursday.
“When a family eats together at least five times per week, kids have better grades, they’re less likely to engage in risky behavior, and they have better overall nutrition,” said Belcher.
Indeed, a recent article in the New York Times referenced a national survey conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. What it found was that teens who participate in family dinners five times or more per week are nearly three times as less likely to try drugs and cigarettes as those who have two such meals or less.
Moreover, the survey turned up a spike in the number of children ages 12 to 17 who said they ate dinner with their families at least five times a week — up to 58 percent, an 11 percent bump from 1998.
However, it’s still not enough. “Only a third of American families are eating together on regular basis,” Belcher noted. So make sure there’s a place set for junior at the table tonight — it won’t just be the food that nourishes him.
10,000 — the number steps of steps we should take daily. Sure, our poor feet are tired and need a rest — but statistics suggest you might not be moving as much as you think you probably are.
“The average person gets about 2,500 to 3,500 steps daily,” said Belcher. “The America on the Move campaign encourages us to take 10,000 steps every day. If you’ve ever worn a pedometer you realize you have to go out of the way to get that many steps ... (but) we need to take special care to increase (the number) to 10,000.”
It doesn’t sound like much fun, but it might not be as hard as it seems. “Go up the steps at the office. Walk across the parking lot instead of looking for the spot closest to the front door. Walk the dog in the afternoon, or take a walk with your significant other to improve your personal relationships as well as your health,” suggested Belcher.
“I listen to books on tape on my Walkman as I walk,” she added, “or I take advantage of free night and weekend minutes on my cell phone and call friends and family as I walk. I do two things at the same time, and I can work in 10,000 steps easier if I take advantage of those additional opportunities.”
206 — the number of bones in the adult human body. Sure, we all know that dis bone’s connected to dat bone, as the old song says, but how many we have to take care of “isn’t something we normally think about,” noted Belcher.
“As the baby boomers age, they’re becoming more concerned about osteoporosis,” she said, adding that it’s estimated that more than half of Americans over 50 are at risk of osteoporosis — the condition in which bones become fragile and easily breakable —by the year 2020.
What to do about that? Just ask the specialist from Southeast Dairy.
“In addition to regular weight-bearing exercise, dairy is going to be one of best sources of calcium, phosphorous, and building and maintaining strong bones,” Belcher advised.
That’s because calcium builds strong bones — in fact, 99 percent if your body’s calcium is stored in your skeleton.
Or take it from the American Pediatrics Society, as the organization’s recent calcium policy reinforced the idea that children and adolescents needed that three servings of dairy products ideally for building strong bones, reminded Belcher.
120/80 — one’s maximum blood pressure. We’ve all stuck our arm in the little squeezy tube in the health section of the local grocery store and read the chart to see what our normal blood pressure should be. However, we shouldn’t forget that number just as soon as we check out — bad blood pressure numbers can come back to bite you when you least expect it.
“They call (high blood pressure) the ‘silent killer’ for a reason, because there no outward symptoms,” said Belcher.
Still, “we can influence our blood pressure with healthy eating and daily exercise,” she said. “In the last seven or eight years, dietary regulations (have suggested that) increasing our fruit and vegetable intake to eight to 10 servings a day and three-a-day servings of low-fat dairy products can decrease blood pressure as much as some medicines.”
Influencing what goes into your body isn’t the only way to keep blood pressure in check — what comes out of it can make a difference, too.
“Give blood on regular basis,” Belcher suggested. “It’s a good way to keep track of blood pressure — plus, you’re doing something worthwhile.”
Those interested in learning more about solving the equation for good health should call 1-800-651-MILK (6455) — or visit the website www.southeastdairy.org — for a special tipsheet designed to help highlight the numbers you need to know. Also provided is a chart from the American Society of Pediatrics, so folks with kids can take look at children's habits in regards to calcium intake.
“We memorize lots of numbers — cell phones, PINs, etc.,” said Belcher — and Southeast Dairy can give you some to help you do a number on your health as well. n