House Calls runs every other Thursday. Today's column is written by Christine Walker, a certified phlebotomy technician at Sutter Coast Hospital.

I love summer. It's all about long summer days at the river, walking in the sand barefoot at the beach, getting together with family and friends for a barbecue dinner, gazing at the stars at night. What could be better?

Last year my husband truly was "King of the Grill." He can cook anything from large meaty hamburgers to juicy steak with dripping sauce in the flames, creating a summer dinner aroma. At the same time, I was inside preparing macaroni salads and dinner rolls while the kids played. All seemed well. This was many a night at my house, with friends stopping over talking and having a great time.

Never once did it occur to me we were setting habits that

couldliterally cut our life span in half. What was wrong with our

picture? We were not setting healthy eating habits for ourselves and our

family. We were eating what we wanted and what sounded good, without

even thinking about our family history with heart disease, high blood

pressure, diabetes or cholesterol.

Last fall, my family starting going to the Sutter Coast Community

Clinic for our health-care needs. What we learned was we were not as

healthy as we thought. We needed to make some changes in our eating

habits and work on some of our "numbers."

My first thought was this should be so easy. I know about numbers. I

work in the Sutter Coast Hospital laboratory. I'm a phlebotomist and I

see many patents every day that "know their numbers," and live their

lives the way their doctors advise. This is encouraging to me. Many just

remain unaware until something comes along and clues us into the ugly

truth. Sad but true.

You, too, should know your numbers. Your weight, blood pressure,

glucose (fasting sugar) and your fasting lipids (the amount of fat in

your blood) and listen to your health-care providers. This year at the

Del Norte Community Health Fair, the Sutter Coast lab saw a 20 percent

increase from last year with people having their blood drawn. This shows

that people in our own community are becoming more conscientious of

their health and taking the first step - knowledge.

Eating right and consistent exercising is hard work but pays off in

the end. Getting your numbers where your doctor says they need to be

could save your life. Any positive changes you make can also affect the

people around you.

This summer, we still got together with friends and family for

barbecues and on the grill we had a small variety of red meats, chicken,

artichokes, red peppers and corn on the cob. Meanwhile, I was in the

house preparing fresh salads with fruits and setting an example that I

hope will be passed along to my children.

Getting into the doctors office can seem scary, but it doesn't have

to be. Think of it as a step toward a healthier you.

Another step would be having your blood drawn. I know this is not

something that seems appealing, but it can be crucial in helping your

health-care provider evaluate your health status. It's a long bumpy

ride, but I'm right there with you.

Email suggestions for future House Calls columns to Beth Liles at

Sutter Coast Hospital,