It is very important to keep on top of certain health indicators so that you have an idea about your overall health status. Daily wellness checks lead to better long-term health outcomes AND once you are aware of your numbers you can take steps to decrease health risks through some easy lifestyle changes!
In 2007, a study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that 44 million Americans are diligent about getting an annual physical. I cannot stress the importance of getting annual cancer screenings and physicals. However, it is important to realize that both of these tests are NOT complete and the average patient only gets a snapshot of their overall health picture when visiting the doctor for a wellness check. In fact, many MDs advocate getting rid of these types of exams completely. My preference is to keep the screenings but to revamp the content. How does a patient know what to do to optimize their health if all tests come back normal? We need next steps to maintain our health status!
Now back to the numbers! While Western medicine is marvelous with more innovation than imaginable, there is just not enough emphasis on inflammation detection and management or keeping track of any data related to this vital medical process. My goal is for my fellow physicians to understand the importance of these numbers and for our annual physicals to incorporate many of these concepts. Until that happens, take charge of your own health and well-being and decide to evaluate what may cause bodily inflammation in your own life. I have summarized the important numbers to keep track of on a regular basis:
Fasting Insulin Level
Hemoglobin A1c is the most common marker used to screen for diabetes in conventional medicine which is measured at your annual physical. This marker should not be the only diabetes metric used as 75% of people who are at risk will be overlooked! A recent study evaluated the effectiveness of the commonly given oral glucose test in which patients drink sugary liquid and then have their glucose levels measured 1-2 hours after ingestion. The test actually proved ineffective for many patients due to detection failure! I believe that all patients should have some idea of their fasting insulin level which will indicate your 3 month average glucose level. Fasting insulin is measured with a blood draw in a fasting state and the test results indicate the body’s baseline resistance to the presence of insulin. Ask your primary care physician if you can have a blood test done on a more regular basis. In fact, this test is crucial for people who have hormonal imbalances or polycystic ovarian syndrome as your insulin levels are extremely helpful to know and guide your treatment course.
How many hours do you sleep a night? Ideally, you should sleep between 8-9 hours a night and consistently go to sleep between 10 to 11pm and rise around 6am each day in accordance with your natural circadian rhythms. Remember sleep quality determines how rested you are and how energetic and focused you feel the next day. Here is a fact about sleep that you may not realize- poor sleep leads to poor cognition AND increases your chance of inflammatory diseases. Also, do not substitute caffeine for poor sleep as too much caffeine will ruin your next night of sleep. Try a 20 minute midday nap which is the equivalent to one hour of solid sleep.
Now admittedly, cortisol spikes are difficult to quantify but very easy to notice. Your cortisol spikes when your heart starts racing during times of stress. How many times a day does this happen to you? What are the triggers that lead to this? It is difficult to pay close attention to your body to really drill down and understand what stressors are present in your daily life and how your body reacts. A few months ago, I wanted to get a better understanding of this process so I wore a heart rate monitor and a glucose monitor. I quickly realized that increases in glucose levels mirrored increases in my heart rate. If you do not have access to these medical instruments, be mindful and take notice of what stresses you out and when. How can you eliminate these stressors or handle the situation differently? What helps? Perhaps journaling, a hot bath, meditation, exercise- keep trying different solutions until you notice less heart rate increases and concurrent cortisol spikes. Always be mindful of the stressors in your life and how you handle them.
Steps, Steps, and More Steps:
Regular movement is not about heavy exercise. Walking regularly and getting enough steps in each day is vital to long-term positive health outcomes and low inflammation. Aim for between 8,000 and 15,000 steps each day depending on how old you are!
Veggies, Veggies, and More Veggies:
How many vegetables do you eat a day? It is time to be mindful and keep track because fiber is the absolute BEST food to increase the quality of your gut bacteria. Also, lower inflammation by eating 6-8 servings of vegetables a day. This question is often omitted by physicians and federal guidelines encourage much less consumption - about 11/2 to 2 cups of fruit a day and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables. Sadly, only 1 in 10 adults are able to meet these much lower standards and we need to change this terrible pattern to ensure good population health. Start with yourself, extend to your home, and make veggies a part of every meal consistently.
Good News! Intermittent fasting and hormonal regulation are benefits of intermittent fasting! Periods of intermittent fasting can be as short as 12 hours and up to 24 hours. Listen to you body and start slowly if you are hesitant about the process. Follow your circadian rhythms and eat your last meal of the day between 6-7pm and break your fast with an anti-inflammatory drink or piece of fruit around 6am the next day. Notice the difference in your digestion, moods and your general state. Start with 3-4 days a week and increase to 5 if you are pursuing a more aggressive period of gut rest. The impact and benefits are immediate and long-lasting. Be good to your gut and your gut will perform at maximum capacity for a lifetime!
Water, Water, Everywhere!
Finally, keep track of how much water you have a day. Be consistent about drinking 8-10 glasses a day but do not be afraid of slowly increasing your water intake. There is truly no upper limit on water consumption but do not overdo it! About 8-10 glasses a day is great for anti-inflammation and hormone regulation! Make sure to let your physician know about how much water you are drinking because more than likely, they won’t ask. Remember, water consumption is vital to all body systems both internally and externally and the benefits are limitless!
Keep track of these numbers! My goal is for you to take control of your body, health, and well being! Start for two weeks and get a baseline set of numbers- work on improving those numbers over time. Start small and focus on one thing at a time- the benefits of these changes will impact your overall quality of life in an extremely positive way.
For more information message me at https://amymdwellness.com.