What You Should Know About Wellness Screenings
Many employers offer a wellness screening program to encourage employees to take an active role in their health. The test results can be a wake-up call for some people who lead unhealthy lifestyles and help others validate lifelong habits prioritizing a healthy diet and exercise.
To participate, you must complete a biometric health screening and health risk assessment yearly. This will qualify you to earn rewards under the program.
Health screenings give you important information about your overall health. One key measurement is your weight. It can help your doctor spot health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
WashU Wellness Champions host a variety of dedicated health screening events on campus and satellite locations. Repeat participant Theresa Horn, a member of the Protective Services team in OFMD, has hosted a number of screenings for her department’s midnight and early morning shift workers.
She uses this data to reshape her team’s wellness program and foster a positive workplace culture that promotes healthy eating habits, adequate physical activity and healthy body mass index (BMI) goals.
A health screening test can help your doctor establish a routine baseline for your overall health. This allows your physician to notice trends and spikes in specific metrics, such as blood pressure, cholesterol or glucose.
Your doctor can measure your blood pressure using an inflatable arm cuff, with two numbers: the first number measures the pressure when your heart contracts to pump blood (systolic); the second measurement occurs when your heart is at rest between beats (diastolic).
Regular screening helps detect high blood pressure, or hypertension, early, when it can be more easily treated and managed. It can also help to monitor the effectiveness of your medications and lifestyle changes, such as diet or exercise.
Blood sugar comes from food and is the body’s main energy source. It needs to be within a target range for optimal health. Check your glucose levels often with a home monitor and record them in your diary or on a smart phone app.
A high level of blood sugar can cause problems such as frequent urination, thirst and extreme hunger. It can also lead to a serious condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which requires treatment in the hospital.
If you have prediabetes, early screening can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Regular tests can also help spot low blood sugar, which can be dangerous when driving.
Cholesterol screenings measure the fats in your blood, including low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). If too much of these unhealthy fats are present, they can build up in the arteries and block healthy flow, which increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other serious conditions.
Regular screenings help identify illnesses and health problems early, when they can be treated more easily and affordably. They also assist doctors in establishing a consistent baseline for individuals’ health metrics, so they can monitor trends and spikes over time.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Body mass index, a measurement of a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his or her height in meters, is one of the most commonly used screening methods to determine whether someone is underweight, healthy weight, overweight, or obese. The risk of obesity-related diseases increases progressively with BMI.
However, BMI is not perfect and should be viewed as part of a comprehensive set of data that includes other health metrics such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose. BMI also doesn’t take into account variations in sex and age, as well as muscle mass.
Body Fat Percentage
Body fat percentage can be a powerful health measure, indicating both fitness and disease risk. It’s a more accurate indicator of health than weight alone or BMI, which doesn’t differentiate muscle mass from fat.
There are many tools available to determine body composition, though they have varying degrees of accuracy and cost. Most of them, such as calipers or skinfold measurement, require a professional to use specialized equipment. You may have seen Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis scales in the gym – they use electrical currents to provide measurements such as body fat, muscle mass and water content, but they have an error rate of up to eight percent.
Many people use BMI as a screening tool. It slots people into categories (underweight, healthy weight, overweight and obese) that may be linked to health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.
However, BMI has limitations. For example, it doesn’t take into account muscle mass or bone density. It also doesn’t distinguish between fat and muscle in the body, which can affect metabolic health.
A better measurement is the waist-to-height ratio, which takes into account a person’s waist circumference and height. A high waist-to-height ratio may indicate more belly fat, which can be more dangerous than excess weight in other places on the body.