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Ways to beat the average health report card

January 19, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Eat less and move more. We've all heard this directive for staying healthy. But along with doing things like adding more produce to your plate, let's take a look at ways to obtain a stellar health report card.When it comes to exercise, men workout 26 minutes and women 19 minutes a day on average, although the goal is 30 minutes a day. To increase your numbers, try 10-minute bouts of cardio three times a day, even if it's a power walk. Then add strength training two days a week.

Our girth is measured by body mass index (BMI), which correlates weight to height. The average BMI for men and women is 28, with a waist circumference of almost 40 inches for men and 37 inches for women. But we want a BMI of 25. Men should have less than a 37-inch waist, a woman 32.

Why? Lower BMI levels translate to lower rates of heart disease and diabetes. BMI is not a fool proof number, but it does provide a good gauge.

We're supposed to be getting two to four servings of fruit and three to five servings of veggies a day. However, men average less than three, women less than four.

But it is incredibly easy to sneak servings in to most meals and snacks. Sneak some veggies into pasta, rice dishes, even eggs for more color and flavor.

It matters because produce contains disease fighting compounds along with water, fiber, vitamins and minerals. By adding more to your plate, you lower the calories of the meal and you feel fuller.

Other things to be better at is keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels lower than average as both are risk factors for heart attacks.

How fast you walk and your ability to rise from a chair can predict longevity. A study of over 3,000 retirees found those with the slowest gait were 50 percent more likely to die within seven years. So the ability to walk briskly and stand up quickly counts.

For those 70 or older, see how quickly you can stand up and sit down without using your arms five times in a row. The average is about 14 and a half seconds for women and men. Try to beat that.

And how is your balance? According to Consumer Reports on Health, the average for standing on one leg with arms folded across your chest is about 43 seconds for those 18 to 39, 40 seconds for those 40 to 49, and 37 seconds for those 50 to 59. The longer you can balance on one leg the better. Try this exercise on each leg, then try it with your eyes closed, but do stand next to a counter or piece of furniture for safety.

Other averages:

Cholesterol levels: 119 mg per deciliter for LDL and 53 mg per deciliter for HDL or good cholesterol.
Goal: Under 100 mg/dl for LDL and 60 mg/dl for HDL

Average blood-pressure levels: 127 over 77
Goal: 120 over 80