“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” - Mahatma Gandhi
It bogles my mind that so many people are willing to spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on maintaining and repairing their cars, houses, boats and other valuable assets, while at the same time complaining about a $50 co-pay from their doctor. What many people don't realize is that their body is the most important and valuable asset they own. And the ones that do realize it, often realize it too late, as their bodies start to fail from decades of improper use and abuse.
This blogpost is the first in a series that will address the dimension of health and wellness. Health education and advice need to be individually tailored to some degree because everyone's body and life situation is different. However, I will try to cover topics in this blog series that are applicable to most people. If you would like a personalized health and wellness plan, contact me for more details.
Just so there is no confusion, I want to define what I mean by the term health. Health is a physiological state, that can be indirectly measured in various ways, and is mainly a result of individual choices that either bring us closer to, or further away from disease. For example, Bob's body mass index (BMI) is greater than 30, which classifies him as obese. Since he is not a bodybuilder or athlete, we can classify this dimension of his health as poor because obesity is a risk factor for many disorders and disease states.
I would like to make it clear that I'm not here to judge people's personal life choices, as long as they understand the consequences of those choices. Some healthcare professionals smoke and I used to be one of them. They understand that smoking increases the chance of them developing many types of cancers, but they prefer the immediate rewards of smoking to the longterm detrimental effects. I will make one point on this however. If you are dedicated or plan on dedicating yourself to a healthy lifestyle, it makes little sense to continue habitual behaviors that bring you closer to disease. There's no sense in running on a treadmill while chain-smoking a pack of Marlboro Reds.
Another point I would like to make is that I DO NOT support public health initiatives that use manipulative tactics and misinformation to encourage the public to make “better” health choices. This isn't because these tactics don't work, because oftentimes they do. It is because manipulation and misinformation are the enemies of truth and knowledge. They are also in many cases the enemies of the general public good. Here is an example of what happens when public health policy is coopted by special interests that try to manipulate and misinform the public: “How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat”
Assessing Your Health
Before you begin chugging whey protein, swinging kettle bells or supplementing with mega-doses of vitamins, you need to go to your primary healthcare provider (PCP) and complete a physical examination. If this is the only recommendation you follow from this post, you will be way ahead of the game.
Step 1 – Complete a yearly physical with a licensed PCP
Your visit should consist of the following:
A) have blood drawn for:
- complete blood count (CBC)
- comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP)
- complete STD panel
- vitamin panel (including fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, K)
- hemoglobin A1c
- thyroid profile
B) Submit a urine specimen
C) Measure your vital signs
D) Measure your height and weight and calculate your BMI
E) Complete a 12-lead ECG to test for any heart rhythm abnormalities
F) Address any ongoing questions or concerns regarding your health (prepare these ahead of time)
Completing a comprehensive physical assessment is extremely important because it helps to detect any abnormalities and/or deficiencies. If you are anemic or have a vitamin deficiency, you can use this information to correct the underlying problem.
Make sure to request a copy of all your results so you can keep them for your records and compare against future test results.
THE FOLLOWING IS GOING TO SEEM LIKE A LOT OF WORK BUT CONSIDERING THE SMALL AMOUNT OF TIME IT TAKES TO COMPLETE, IT REALLY ISN'T
Step 2 – Track your health stats at home weekly (and eventually daily)
It is easier than ever to measure your vital signs and other physiological markers at home. Doing so regularly will give you better insight into your normal baseline (your body's normal physiological state). I recommend you invest in the following items:
- Digital scale ($20-50)
- Digital thermometer ($10-30)
- Automated Blood Pressure Monitor ($30-100)
- Pulse Oximeter for measuring heart rate and oxygen saturation ($20-40)
- Blood Glucose Testing Kit ($20-50)
Create a weekly (and eventually daily) routine for yourself and record the following measurements:
- Blood Pressure – take this in a consistent position (laying flat or sitting upright); give yourself about a minute of rest before measuring so that your body adjusts to your position; consistently use the same limb (left or right arm)
- Heart Rate and Oxygen Saturation – consistently use the same finger; make sure your hand is below chest level
- Weight – weigh yourself, ideally in the morning, without any clothes, before you eat or drink and after you've taken care of any toileting needs
- Temperature – measure in the same place; I recommend oral (mouth) or tympanic (ear)
- Respiratory Rate – count your breaths (inspiration and expiration equals one breath) over a 30-second period and multiply by 2; notice your depth of breathing (shallow, normal or deep)
- Blood Glucose – this is recommended if your A1c is above 5.7% or if you want to go the extra mile and track your glucose as well
Commit to doing this on a weekly basis at first and eventually incorporate this as part of your daily routine. This whole process should take you no longer than 5-10 minutes per day. If you are on a budget or really can't allocate the 5-10 minutes per day to do this, focus on tracking just your blood pressure and weight.
The easiest way to track and analyze these metrics is to plug the numbers into a spreadsheet application as such:
Why Do All This!?
Multiple data points can tell you a lot more than any single data point. The one set of vital signs that your PCP takes every year is not a good proxy for your daily health. With enough quality data, you can begin to establish trends and correlate those trends with your daily activities. For example, you might change your work hours and notice a decrease in your average blood pressure as a result. You might quit smoking and observe an increase in your oxygen saturation. Maybe you cut out refined sugars from your diet and notice your daily blood glucose drop to a normal range.
This data is important because it provides a valuable feedback mechanism for the choices you make and can highlight behaviors that are positively or negatively affecting your health. Don't wait for your body to break. DO THIS NOW! Prevention is the best medicine.
Normal Ranges for Vital Signs and Glucose
I want to finish this post by giving you some normal ranges for your health stats. These ranges aren't hard and fast rules and can vary slightly from person to person depending on many factors. It's important to understand that the average of many readings will always be a better marker than any one reading.
- Normal Resting Systolic Blood Pressure (first number): 90-120 mmHg
- Normal Resting Diastolic Blood Pressure (second number): 60-80 mmHg
- Normal Resting Heart Rate: 60 - 100 beats per minute
- Normal Resting Heart Rate for Athlete: 40 - 80 beats per minute
- Normal Resting Respiratory Rate: 8 - 16 breaths per minute
- Normal Resting Oxygen Saturation: 95 - 100%
- Normal Body Temperature: 97ºF - 99ºF or 36.11ºC - 37.22ºC
- Normal BMI Range: 18.5 - 25
I hope this post provided you with some useful and actionable information. Future posts will address the three main dimensions of health and wellness: sleep, diet, exercise. As I stated at the beginning of the post, everyone's situation is different and requires some personalization. If you would like a personalized health and wellness plan, please feel free to contact me for more information.
And as always, I'd love to hear your feedback regarding this post. Please comment below with any questions, observations or suggestions.