It's Know Your Numbers Week so what better time to get to know those all important health digits.

From doing a little reading about the key figures you must heed if you want to remain in good health…


Units, as a measure of how much alcohol you’re consuming, were first introduced in 1987.

And yet, nearly 30 years later, many of us are still unsure of what they really mean; ‘a medium glass of wine is one unit, yes?’. No, it’s not. It’s two. So is a pint, and so is one double gin and tonic.

Bearing in mind women should only be having a maximum of 2-3 units a day, and men 3-4, that probably leaves most of us imbibing, even if not quite Monsieur Depardieu levels, a little more than we should. Check out your levels on the NHS website.

[Related story: How old is your heart? Take the quiz and find out]

Blood pressure

Dubbed ‘the silent killer’, high blood pressure affects one in three UK adults and, every day, 350 people have a preventable stroke or heart attack caused by it.

Additionally, in a survey carried out by Kinetik Medical for Know Your Numbers Week, while 96% of people knew hypertension upped the risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure, 46% didn’t know what their blood pressure reading was.

[Related story: Are you at risk of high blood pressure? Learn the symptoms of hypertension]


The idea of BMI has had, and continues to have, its share of critics.

They say the system, which takes your weight (in kilograms), divides it by your height squared (in metres), then calculates it into categories of “underweight” – a BMI under 18.5;  “normal” – between 18.5 and 25; “overweight” – between 25 and 30; and “obese” – above 30, doesn’t factor in variables like age and muscle mass, and is therefore often wrong.

But while this may be true (we’ve all seen the news stories of normal looking 5-year-olds branded obese) it remains the recommended method of keeping official tabs on people’s weight.

Work out your own, here.


A few months ago, Public Health England reported that women with a ‘spare tyre’ are three times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and men increased their risk a staggering five times – the ‘danger zones’ are above 34.7 for women and above 40 inches for men.

Another recent study by City University in London, said a waist to height ratio of 80% or more could reduce life expectancy by up to 20 years.

To measure your own waist correctly, find the bottom of your ribs and top of your hips, breathe out, then measure around, midway between these two points.

[Related story: Tummy workout: 5 easy exercises to shift belly fat]


Blood cholesterol – one of the biggest bogeymen of our nation’s health – is measured in millimoles per litre of blood (mmol/L), and the Government currently recommends that total cholesterol levels should be 5mmol/L or less for healthy adults (4mmol/L or less for those at high risk) – yet it’s much higher in two-thirds of people in Britain.

If you’re worried – and you should be if you drink a lot, smoke and eat a diet high in saturated fat – then get yourself checked with your GP.

Breast cancer screening

In the UK, around 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer, with that risk increasing with age.

This is why in the UK, women aged 50-70 are invited to attend breast screening every three years as part of the NHS Breast Screening Programme.

If you are 70 or over, you're not automatically invited, but you’re allowed to make your own appointments for free mammograms every three years.

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