Know your numbers – 17 healthy numbers you need to know

Dr Luke Powles
Clinical Director, Health Clinics Bupa Global and UK
07 September 2018

When it comes to a healthy lifestyle, these are the numbers you need to know about. From the amount of sleep you need to how much sunscreen you need to apply – we’ve got your numbers covered.

1. How many hours of sleep should I aim for a night?

It’s hard to give a definitive answer to this. People vary in how much sleep they need to stay healthy and feel well rested. It’s generally accepted that most adults will need between seven to nine hours in a 24-hour period.

2. What is a healthy blood pressure?

A blood pressure reading of around 120/80mmHg is seen as healthy – above 140/90mmHg is considered high when the reading is measured in a clinic and 135/85mmHg when measured at home.

3. What’s a healthy BMI?

18.5–24.9 (kg/m) is classed as a healthy weight.

4. What should my waist circumference be?

You have a low risk of health problems due to weight if you’re:

  • a man and your waist circumference is less than 94cm (37 inches)
  • a woman and your waist circumference is less than 80cm (31 inches)

5. How much exercise should I do?

You should aim to do some physical activity every day. Guidelines state that you should aim to do 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate intensity activity over a week (where you feel warm, mildly breathless, mildly sweaty and your heart beat feels quicker). A good way to achieve this is to do bouts of 10 minutes for a total of 30 minutes over five days. Or you can do 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise a week . This is where you feel short of breath to the extent where you can’t talk in full sentences.

6. What age should I get my cholesterol checked?

You should have your cholesterol checked every five years if you’re between the ages of 40 and 75. If you’re taking medicines to lower your cholesterol then you’ll have your levels checked every year.

7. What should my cholesterol levels be?

You should know the following three measures (at least):

  • Total cholesterol (TC). This is the total amount of cholesterol in your blood. It should be 5 mmol/L or less.
  • Non HDL-cholesterol . This is known as ‘bad’ cholesterol and it should be 4 mmol/L or less. 3.4–4.0 mmol/L is considered near ideal, below 3.4 mmol/L is considered ideal for people at risk of heart disease.
  • HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C). This is the amount of good cholesterol, in your blood and should be over 1 mmol/L (for men) and over 1.2 mmol/L (for women). It should ideally make up 25 percent or more of your total cholesterol.

8. How much fruit and veg should I have a day?

You should aim to have at least five portions of fruit and veg per day. A portion is 80g. Try and eat a wide variety – a rainbow of fruit and veg. Fresh, frozen, dried and tinned all count.

9. What factor sunscreen should I use? And how much?

To be safe in the sun, use a high protection of at least SPF 30 (and with high UVA protection – we recommend five stars) You need to use about 6-8 teaspoons (which is about 35ml). This will be enough to cover the body of an average adult.

10. How many calories should I eat and drink a day?

The recommended amount of calories to have a day is:

  • 2,500 calories for men
  • 2,000 calories for women

11. How many glasses of water should I drink each day?

Try to have around 6–8 glasses of fluid a day. This is on top of the water you can get from foods.

12. What should my heart rate be?

Your heart rate is usually measured when you’re resting; this is because your heart rate can fluctuate (go up and down) throughout the day, depending on what you’re doing and your stress levels. The normal resting heart rate for adults can range from 60–100 beats per minute, though many fit people can have a normal resting heart rate of below 60. Anything higher than 100 beats per minute at rest should be checked by your GP.

13. What are the low risk guidelines for drinking alcohol?

Current guidelines recommend the less alcohol you have the better, but if you do drink, the guidelines are to not drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week. If you do, try to spread them out evenly over at least three days of the week.

14. How many minutes should I brush my teeth for?

Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste for at least two minutes, twice a day.

15. What age should I start having cervical screening?

You should start having cervical screening when you’re 25 and should have a test every three years. If you’re over 50, you’ll receive in invitation to have a test every five years.

16. What age should I have breast screening?

Women aged 50 to 70 are invited for breast screening every three years.

17. What age should I have bowel cancer screening?

The home stool bowel cancer screening test, called the stool FOB (faecal occult blood) test, is offered every two years to all men and women aged 60 to 74. If you’re 75 or over, you can still have the test but you have to request it. In addition to this, in the year that you turn 55, you’ll be automatically invited for a one-off mini-scope test called a sigmoidoscope, if it's available in your area.

Do you know how healthy you truly are? Bupa health assessments give you a clear overview of your health and a view of any future health risks. You'll receive a personal lifestyle action plan with health goals to reach for a happier, healthier you.

Dr Luke Powles
Dr Luke Powles
Clinical Director, Health Clinics Bupa Global and UK

Did you find our advice helpful?

We’d love to hear what you think. Our short survey takes just a few minutes to complete and helps us to keep improving our healthy lifestyle articles.