Best way to measure health/wellness

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GandK
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Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by GandK »

Spinoff of the microbiome discussion and the fat discussion.

So... I think I'm eating healthy foods. I think I'm exercising properly for my goals and body type. I think I'm managing my mood proactively, which I must continue to do until menopause (history of PPD). And I do feel healthy and good. But am I really? And how can I prove that?

I know we've talked about ways of measuring strength and fitness. What is the best way to measure health? Blood tests + BMI + fitness tests + nutrition analysis + psychological evaluation? Maybe more? That would cost an arm and a leg if done regularly. Doctors are sickness-oriented, and even "wellness" professionals still want my money. On paper at least, they have a vested interest in my being worried about my health even if nothing is really wrong.

Is there an easier way to get at this?

enigmaT120
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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by enigmaT120 »

How do different body types differ as far as what exercise is proper for them? I've never considered that.

I think feeling healthy is probably enough. Can you do anything you want?

bryan
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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by bryan »

enigmaT120 wrote: I think feeling healthy is probably enough. Can you do anything you want?
_Feeling_ healthy is probably not good enough. I suspect a large majority of people think they are pretty healthy, until they find out they have diabetes, high blood pressure, or notice getting gassed after walking up some stairs. Changes in health usually take years and your brain won't notice (heck, you probably won't even notice changes in body weight).

For me, I _feel_ just as healthy as I was 6 years ago, when I was exercising 2x a day and consuming a lot less beer.

jacob
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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by jacob »

enigmaT120 wrote:How do different body types differ as far as what exercise is proper for them? I've never considered that.
This is important!

Skinny types: High intensity. Forget about 3 sets of 10. You need to "kill yourself". Also, you might be eating too little.
Athletic types: Standard 3 sets of 10. Muscles will automagically appear.
Fatty types: Lots of cardio. Also, you might be eating too much. Quite likely, you're also just eating too wrong.

Most exercise advice is aimed at athletic types. You can waste years on getting nowhere with the wrong routine/diet. I did.

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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by jacob »

@GandK - Beats me... are you looking for subjective or objective measures---considering that objective measured are recognized to be rather subjective these days. The subjectivity---that different bodies aren't well judged by averages---is important, so numbers (blood markers) may not be that useful.

1) Do you wake up full of energy?
2) Are you full of energy throughout the day?
3) Do you sleep well?
4) Are you "happy"/content?
5) Are you never/rarely sick?
6) If you ask strangers to guess your age, do they undershoot?
7) Can you easily do what people X years chronologically younger than you do? (Given that the average health is decrepit, this might be a useful marker).

I think that covers a lot.

Dragline
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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by Dragline »

What may be more important that any particular tests are changes in your own baselines.

Blood-work probably gives you the most raw data, but you want to compare it with "what it was like when you were younger or at some point when you know you were healthy"

There are also a variety of longevity calculators on the interwebs that are free. Bluezones has a decent one. Realage has another. These focus on your chances of heart disease or cancer, which are the big two as far as mortality is concerned.

I've had my DNA analyzed at 23andme -- it can tell you about your propensity towards certain diseases, but its still quite experimental as to what all the markers mean.

GandK
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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by GandK »

@jacob: I'm definitely looking for objective measures. Wrinkles... who cares. I want a good health benchmark that I can compare myself to as I age, and maybe make adjustments. I'm just not sure what the best health benchmark(s) would be. I'm already tracking my weight, nutrients I get from food vs vitamins, number of migraines per year, my moods (peaks and valleys), number of reps when I exercise, and steps taken per day. I'm wondering what else to add, or if there are better options available (self-measured or other-measured). Re your questions:

1) Do you wake up full of energy?
If it's sunny outside, then assuming I went to bed on time, yes I do.
If it's overcast, I usually have to push myself.

2) Are you full of energy throughout the day?
See the above.

3) Do you sleep well?
Always. Asleep within 5 minutes of lying down; sleep for 7.5 hours exactly when not interrupted.

4) Are you "happy"/content?
Yes.

5) Are you never/rarely sick?
Other than the occasional migraine, yes.

6) If you ask strangers to guess your age, do they undershoot?
I haven't asked anyone that question for a long time, but when G and I go out for a drink, I occasionally get carded still. More often lately, since I lost the weight I put on when I was pregnant with my youngest. It always surprises me. I suppose it's possible that they're just being polite or that it's hard to tell my age in a dim-lit bar, but I probably look younger than most 41-year-olds, yes.

7) Can you easily do what people X years chronologically younger than you do? (Given that the average health is decrepit, this might be a useful marker).
There is nothing in my routine other than exercise which I find physically challenging, and I can't think of an instance within the last few years where I tried to do something other than exercise and was either incapable of doing it or became winded. So, yes. I think.
Last edited by GandK on Tue Oct 20, 2015 6:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

black_son_of_gray
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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by black_son_of_gray »

Perhaps it's best to settle on a definition for health/wellness, as I think we all have our own subtle differences in interpretation.

To me, it seems prudent to define health/wellness as the absence of illness, disease, or disorder. So in that sense, you can't really be more healthy than 'just healthy'. From this perspective, Jacob's questions are useful as they would indicate possible illness, disease, or disorder.

Others might disagree on the definition, though, and say that there is healthy, healthier, and healthiest. While it may be true that there is some constellation of conditions that create maximum health for an individual, I think it's probably impossible to know that exactly for their body, and therefore impossible to measure.

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Ego
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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by Ego »

I am starting to question the idea of a variety of natural body types. When I run through the rice paddies here I see only one body type among the men and women working the fields. They appear identical to the photos of hunter-gatherers I've seen in National Geographic for decades. The bulky, over-muscled and flabby do not exist in the fields. Nor do the big boned, largely built people we encounter regularly in the west.

Dr. Blaser devoted a section in his book Missing Microbes to the idea that big boned kids and adults could be the result of lots of antibiotics prescriptions and in food. Heck, it makes logical sense. Farmer feed sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics to cattle, sheep, chicken and swine for the express purpose of increasing their feed conversion efficiency (growth). They know it works. There seems to be no consensus as to why it works.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antibioti ... timulation

GandK
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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by GandK »

black_son_of_gray wrote:Others might disagree on the definition, though, and say that there is healthy, healthier, and healthiest.
I gained a significant amount of with my last pregnancy. It was within the prescribed "healthy" parameters for a woman my size. However, I did not feel "like myself" again until most of the weight had came back off, which took years. During most of that time I was not unhealthy according to either of my doctors, but I was certainly unhappy about how I felt, physically and psychologically. I'm not sure how to describe that situation other than to say I felt unhealthy, whether I was on paper or not.

bryan
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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by bryan »

Ego wrote:I am starting to question the idea of a variety of natural body types. When I run through the rice paddies here I see only one body type among the men and women working the fields. They appear identical to the photos of hunter-gatherers I've seen in National Geographic for decades. The bulky, over-muscled and flabby do not exist in the fields. Nor do the big boned, largely built people we encounter regularly in the west.
Well, I mean it's almost completely genetic so it's completely reasonable that some DNA combos exist that result in differing body types. We call them "natural" based on the popularity of occurrence among populations ;) (and maybe if you're pedantic, the "control group" body type where environment is controlled for). You could easily selectively breed to get some specific body types (naturally big/small muscles, more/less fat, and specific parts of the body for each like butt, arms, waist, etc). It's just that the genes of the people working in the rice paddies are perhaps not so diverse.

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Ego
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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by Ego »

bryan wrote: Well, I mean it's almost completely genetic so it's completely reasonable that some DNA combos exist that result in differing body types. We call them "natural" based on the popularity of occurrence among populations ;)
Just because something occurs does not mean it is natural. For instance, an antibiotic fed chicken that grows breasts so big it is unable to stand, is not "natural" as in naturally-occurring.

The famous Pima Indian study shows this to be the case. The Pima tribe was split by the US-Mexico border. Those south of the border ate their traditional diet and consequently were small, lean and long-lived. Those north of the border adopted the western lifestyle, became obese and had the highest rate of diabetes of any ethnic group in the world.

bryan
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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by bryan »

Ego wrote:
bryan wrote: Well, I mean it's almost completely genetic so it's completely reasonable that some DNA combos exist that result in differing body types. We call them "natural" based on the popularity of occurrence among populations ;)
Just because something occurs does not mean it is natural. For instance, an antibiotic fed chicken that grows breasts so big it is unable to stand, is not "natural" as in naturally-occurring.
You left off:
> (and maybe if you're pedantic, the "control group" body type where environment is controlled for)
where I suppose environment means a natural/organic diet versus an average US diet versus an USDA approved diet, etc.

And technically humans aren't natural (e.g. humans procreate and cause humans; or at least human civilization as we know it), by some definitions of natural ("existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind"). So it's a bit moot to talk about what is natural or not for humans.

True we find chemicals that are processed in interesting ways by different organisms thanks to their genotype (humans seem to love chocolate, dogs not so much. Some humans like milk or wheat, other humans not so much.) I bet we could selectively breed chickens to not be affected (grow breasts) when taking antibiotics, but in fact the opposite has been preferred.

So again, I think it's pretty reasonable to acknowledge different body types as being natural.

I'll consider that perhaps GMOs are not natural, including, eventually, humans. But what are we talking about again? Being healthy? It stands to reason a GMO can be more healthy than the natural alternative. Or not; it depends on what the humans want. So actually healthy and natural are not really connected at all. So we are back to just considering healthiness only.

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Ego
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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by Ego »

I've been thinking about the original question. I have to admit, I don't really like measurements like steps per day or beats per mīnute because people tend to use the lower limit as the "at least I did X today".

viewtopic.php?p=93124#p93124

I ask myself if the metric would be important to 85-year-old me. I then use it to compare past-me to present-me. At risk of sounding like an uber-enthusiastic motivational speakers, constant improvement - even into fifties and beyond - is largely due to mindset. I try to always get better, where 'better' is measured by 85-year-old me.

Chad
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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by Chad »

Jacob's list is pretty good. I do like measurements from time to time, but you do need baselines for all of them. These baselines are ideally from yourself, as Dragline mentioned.
Ego wrote:I am starting to question the idea of a variety of natural body types. When I run through the rice paddies here I see only one body type among the men and women working the fields. They appear identical to the photos of hunter-gatherers I've seen in National Geographic for decades. The bulky, over-muscled and flabby do not exist in the fields. Nor do the big boned, largely built people we encounter regularly in the west.

Dr. Blaser devoted a section in his book Missing Microbes to the idea that big boned kids and adults could be the result of lots of antibiotics prescriptions and in food. Heck, it makes logical sense. Farmer feed sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics to cattle, sheep, chicken and swine for the express purpose of increasing their feed conversion efficiency (growth). They know it works. There seems to be no consensus as to why it works.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antibioti ... timulation
Except, I would bet many of those people in the fields are undernourished, while we are overnourished on calories. So, they probably have less variation due to that restriction and we have more variation due too much.

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Ego
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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by Ego »

Chad wrote: Except, I would bet many of those people in the fields are undernourished, while we are overnourished on calories. So, they probably have less variation due to that restriction and we have more variation due too much.
Right, but what you are calling their undernourished state might actually be the 'natural' state in which we evolved over hundreds of thousands of years. Suddenly, season after season, generation after generation, we have abundance. The kids of wealthy families here look an awful lot like American kids.

I wonder if undernourished humans have less or more genetic diversity. I also wonder if it is actually healthy. I remember Jenny posted a link in the epigenetics thread about how a bout of hunger in young men caused their grandchildren (I believe) to live significantly longer.

Seems possible that going through life without experiencing bouts of famine could actually be unnatural.

viewtopic.php?t=4323

7Wannabe5
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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

40,000 years ago the average human male was 6 ft tall. The shortest average height was during the period of low sunlight pre-sanitation industrialized city living agricultural based diet when a lot of mothers consumed too much alcohol. Vagrant boys in early 20th century London were very short at maturity. Boys were most likely to go vagrant at a very young age if their mothers drank and fetal alcohol syndrome and smoking tobacco while pregnant also contributed to low stature at adulthood. IOW, your stature at maturity is fairly well-correlated with whether or not your mother loved (verb) you.
Last edited by 7Wannabe5 on Wed Oct 21, 2015 9:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

Chad
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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by Chad »

@Ego

Good points. We probably did evolve with small bouts of famine being a normal/natural state. The question would be what is the ideal state? There is longevity research suggesting calorie restricted diets are good and there are some studies showing fasting is helpful for certain things. But, there are also studies showing certain benefits to being well feed with quality food. It's probably in the middle.

Another question this kindled. If famine/fasting can be helpful is the opposite helpful? The idea being that we probably evolved for the famines, but we probably also evolved for the feasts (large game animal).

Another question would be are those locals actually in our natural state? We have only been farming for short time, but scavenging and hunting for far longer. Are both of our state's unnatural?

Maybe.

enigmaT120
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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by enigmaT120 »

Ego wrote: Right, but what you are calling their undernourished state might actually be the 'natural' state in which we evolved over hundreds of thousands of years. Suddenly, season after season, generation after generation, we have abundance. The kids of wealthy families here look an awful lot like American kids.
I wonder if they live longer active lives than larger people. Exclude childhood mortality. That's a good measure of health/wellness, except you can't tell until you're old if you have it!

7Wannabe5
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Re: Best way to measure health/wellness

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Would you rather be 5'2" , 120 lbs. and able to press 120 with life expectancy of 87.5 or 6'2" 200 lbs. and able to press 240 with life expectancy of 84.5? Even as a female, I would give up some amount of life expectancy in exchange for being tall and curvy. I used to attend a yoga studio where I generally showered with a bunch of tiny, lovely Asian grad students and I wouldn't trade bodies. However, I also wouldn't trade bodies with any of the beautiful, muscular, size extra-large African American women with whom I currently shower after water aerobics. I laugh at the notion that genetic differences that will be displayed as different phenotypes under similar circumstances do not exist. In my current neighborhood, people always assume that I am a recent immigrant from Eastern Europe until I speak, because I have pale skin, slightly slanted eyes and my ass isn't completely flat.

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