Health Screenings: Terms You Should Know

Your quick guide to words used in screening for BMI, cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure

zoom in on blood work

Understanding your health is the first step in taking control and managing any conditions you have. You’ll be better able to follow what your doctor is saying if you know some key terms—and what they mean for you. Read over this glossary of words associated with some of the most common health screenings, including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Diabetes Terms

Blood glucose is the main type of sugar found in your blood. Your body uses this sugar as its primary energy source. Hypoglycemia is when your blood glucose level is lower than it should be, and hyperglycemia is when it is too high.

A1C is a diabetes blood test that measures your average blood glucose level over time, typically over a two- or three-month period. It shows how much glucose is sticking to red blood cells.

Blood Pressure Terms

Blood pressure is how much force the blood exerts on the walls inside your blood vessels. The number is given in the form of systolic and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure is the pressure when the heart pumps the blood out, and diastolic pressure is the pressure when the heart rests between beats.

Hypertension is when blood pressure is higher than normal, and hypotension is when it’s too low.

Cholesterol Terms

Lipids are fats in the body, and blood lipids are fats in the blood. A lipid profile is a blood test that measures total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL and HDL cholesterol. It’s used to gauge heart disease risk.

Cholesterol is found in some foods and is also produced in the liver. Your body uses it to make hormones and build cell walls.

Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in your body.

HDL cholesterol is often called “good” cholesterol. It is a type of fat in the blood that helps the body get rid of extra cholesterol. HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein.

BMI Terms

Body mass index (BMI) is a calculation done using a person’s body weight and height. Overweight is defined as having a BMI of 25 to 29.9. A BMI higher than that indicates obesity.