As a longevity advocate, I am interested in how we asses health, and measure the success of any lifestyle changes we make. Objective evidence is hard to refute! Noticing trends or deficiencies can also teach you when to make adjustments in your diet and exercise in order to regain balance and achieve your health goals.
There are a few forms of measurement I encourage to use on a regular basis (timeframes suggested below), in order to track progress, and catch early warning signs and risk factors for longevity threatening diseases (heart disease in particular).
I began using these forms of measurement since my Dad passed away, as this heightened how aware I was of what I did with, and put into my body, and how it responded. My most significant measurements began a year ago during the first round of my Young Hearts Challenge, and where possible I have listed some of those improvement metrics below.
Documenting Your Health: Tracking & Self Assessment Tools
Conducted by: Self
Cost: Apx. $5 for a tape measuring ribbon
What does it tell you: Tracks body composition changes (versus weight), and can indicate progress or regression. It can also be a tool for making sure your physique is balanced (legs & arms), and if you ever want to calculate your (apx). body fat %
What does it involve?: Taking regular (I recommend monthly when making any changes in lifestyle), measurements from each of the areas listed in this link (excluding inseam and sleeve)
Results: After a year of Young Heart Challenges, I experienced the following reductions:
Chest: 2 cm
Conducted by: Self (most pharmacy chains contain self testing stations)
What does it tell you: High blood pressure (HBP) indicates a strained cardiovascular system because of how much harder the heart has to work to circulate blood (and nutrients). HBP can lead to a hardening of the arteries, in conjunction with cardiovascular exhaustion and fatigue. Low blood pressure could indicate a lack of electrolytes, or an under consumption of nutrients which hampers both energy and mental clarity.
What does it involve?: A 5 min, arm band inflation test. Most pharmacy’s also have results interpretation information, or check here.
Results: Last check in I had a 110/81; “normal”
Blood Lipid Profile
Conducted by: Blood work technician
Cost: Depends on your health insurance plans, can cost $100-$200, or in some states/provinces be free upon referral (i.e. due to family history).
What does it tell you: Quantity & ratio of HDL (good) & LDL (uncomplimentary) cholesterol, trygliceride levels (blood fats),
What does it involve?: Blood samples taken after 12 hours of fasting
Results: An acceptable level of HDL cholesterol is at least 40mg/dL. Optimal HDL levels are higher than 60. An optimal level of LDL cholesterol is under 100 mg/dL (source).
Conducted by: Self directed, or through a personal trainer (PT)
Cost: Depends on PT rates, or free if self conducted
What does it tell you: Improvements in physical capacity and overall fitness, a measurement of health
What does it involve?: Getting sweaty! I like to use a directly measurable activity. Such as monitoring your 1km sprint time, or how many consecutive push ups you can do, or your range of motion in a yoga pose.
Results: Improvements such as a faster pace per km/mile!
Body Composition Scan
Conducted by: Imaging Technician
Cost: Varies (apx. $90-100)
What does it tell you: Through the use of a DXA scanner (x ray), fat and bone tissue composition are illustrated and a summary of tissue components is obtained as well as highly accurate bone density and body fat percentages. It’s a great way to measure improvements of focused training, or as a benchmark for making lifestyle changes. Learn more about it here.
What does it involve?: A short duration x-ray scan, complete in about 10 mins, followed by an in depth analysis of results with your technician (images are available within the same appointment). Total appointment time: apx 45 mins.
Results: I had a BodyComp scan performed at the beginning of last years Young Hearts series of challenges, and then again at the beginning of this year (one year apart). My lean muscle went up, and body fat down!
No matter what method/s you choose, I highly recommend using some form of measurement for any goals…lifestyle & health, or otherwise!