This is Muscle for Life. I’m Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today for a new episode on tracking your Health. And the reason I wanted to record this episode is Quantified Health is more popular now than ever before. Many people are buying various scats and gizmos that purport to give you some insight into your health, into your fitness, into your recovery, and in some cases, The measurements can be useful.
A few that I’ll be talking about in today’s episode that are indicative of health and are worth tracking. Our blood pressure, body composition, resting heart rate, but there are also many health and fitness metrics that people track and pay attention to that matter a lot less. Than the five I’m going to share with you in this podcast or don’t matter at all, or don’t necessarily mean anything at all that are actively misleading or can be actively misleading, like in the case of recovery.
For example, recovery scores that different fitness wearables will produce based on various factors, usually primarily heart rate variability. And so then in this podcast, I’m going to share with you five health markers that will allow you to track your health and ensure you are in good health. I would say that these five comprise the 20% of all the things that you could track that produce 80% of the benefits or give you at least 80% of the overall picture of your health.
Okay, so before I get into the health metrics, I want to define that term quickly. These are also often referred to as health markers or health measures or health biomarkers, and these things are indicators of the state of your health, your physical health, your mental health, your emotional health. And measures of health can range from objective things, very quantitative things like blood pressure or body mass index, uh, BMI as it’s often referred to, but it can also include subjective and qualitative things like how you would rate your happiness or your life satisfaction.
And the reason health metrics are useful, especially the ones I’m going to share in this podcast, which are objective and quantitative, is they represent the underlying function of. Some of your body’s most important physiological systems. So if these metrics that I’m gonna share with you are in a normal healthy range, then there’s a very good chance that your overall health is normal and there aren’t any major underlying problems of disease or dysfunction.
So with that out of the way, let’s get to the first metric, and that is blood pressure, which measures the force of the blood in your body against the arterial walls. As the blood is circulating through the arteries and we measure blood pressure in millimeters of mercury or M M H G, you will see that contraction, you’ll see that acronym and we express it as.
Two numbers. So there is systolic and diastolic. So systolic blood pressure measures the amount of pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts, so that’s the pumping of the blood. And then the diastolic blood pressure measures the amount of pressure when the heart is resting between. Beats. Now, when you measure your blood pressure, you get it measured and you see the numbers.
They are usually separated with a forward slash and the systolic reading is the first, the one on the left, and the diastolic reading is the second one or the one on the right. And according to traditional medical classification, less than 120 over less than 80. So the first number less than 120, the systolic, and then the Ford slash.
Second number diastolic less than 80. That’s normal blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure is one 20 to 1 29 over less than 80. Stage one hypertension. So now we are talking about pathology. The first stage of the disease of high blood pressure begins at 1 32, 1 39 systolic, or 82 89 diastolic. Stage two hypertension is one.
40 or higher systolic. So that first number one 40 or higher, or 90 or higher in your second number, the diastolic pressure, and then a hypertensive crisis, meaning you should talk to a doctor right away. You need to do something. Would be a systolic reading over 180 and or a diastolic reading over one 20.
Now, why is it important to monitor your blood pressure and to try to keep it in a normal range? Well, hypertension is a very common health problem. For example, research shows that almost half of Americans have hypertension, stage one, two, or three, and research shows that hypertension can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and other.
Health complications and so it is smart to keep an eye on your blood pressure. Now, traditional medical advice recommends measuring blood pressure every two to five years. If you are under 40 years old and you are healthy, you have no heart disease issues or major heart disease risk factors and people who are older as well as people who are younger, who are at risk of high blood pressure, should take their blood pressure at least.
Once a year, and this is something you can do at a doctor’s office, of course, but you can also do it at home. Now if you are seeing your doctor once per year, because let’s say you are older than 40, and that is the recommendation, just to get regular screenings, they’re going to take your blood pressure.
So you probably don’t need to do anything in addition to that unless your doctor would like you to. If you are younger and you are not seeing the doctor regularly. Because you don’t need to. You can take your blood pressure at home. Of course, you can get a blood pressure monitor on Amazon, relatively inexpensive, easy to use.
Now, how do you lower blood pressure levels? How do you maintain healthy blood pressure levels? Well, it is what you would guess. Research shows the best ways are to exercise regularly and any physical activity whatsoever is beneficial, although weightlifting. And cardio together seems to be particularly effective.
Losing weight is a great way to lower blood pressure. If you are overweight and maintaining a healthy body composition, a healthy body weight is a great way to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. You can reduce your sodium intake because high sodium diets can increase blood pressure levels. You can quit smoking because one of the many, many downsides to smoking is it increases blood pressure levels.
You can get enough sleep because one of the many, many downsides to not getting enough sleep is high blood pressure levels, and you can reduce stress levels if they’re too high. Too often. If you are overstressed regularly. One of the many, many downsides to that is high blood pressure. Okay. The next health metric that you should be tracking is your body composition, which refers to the proportion of fat mass, so that’d be body fat to fat free mass, which would be muscle, water, bones, organs, and minerals in your body.
And when US Fitness folk are tracking our body composition, we are particularly paying attention to our fat mass and our. Muscle mass cuz the amount of water in our body will fluctuate and the amount of bone in our body will not fluctuate. And the amount of organ in our body will not fluctuate.
Minerals will fluctuate to some degree, but if we just focus on body fatness and body muscularity, we have a good indicator of whether our body composition, including other elements is healthy or not. And the reason for that is a healthy body composition. Has an above average amount of fat free mass and especially muscle mass, and a below average amount of body fat, and an unhealthy body composition is the other side of that coin.
It is high in body fat, so above average amounts of body fat. And it’s low in muscle mass, it has below average amounts of muscle. Now, many people think of tracking body composition as tracking body weight, or only track body weight, and don’t pay attention to what that body weight is comprised of, particularly in the way of body fat and muscle mass, and that is not ideal.
Because let’s say you’re only paying attention to your body weight and you start doing strength training, which is a great activity, many health benefits, and you gain several pounds of muscle, let’s say in the first couple of months, and you lose several pounds of fat. Your body weight has stayed the same.
Let’s say it’s the exact same number. It’s five pounds. You’ve gained five pounds of muscle, and you’ve lost five pounds of fat, and your body is factually. Healthier and more functional, but your body weight has not changed. If you are only paying attention to body weight, you might be disappointed and you might think that the strength training is not working or that something else is wrong, but if you are tracking your body composition, you would see a different picture.
You would see you have gained muscle. Good, healthy, and you have lost fat, good, healthy. And the reason why it’s important to maintain a healthy body composition, and I’m gonna explain what that is in a minute, is research shows that maintaining a healthy body composition reduces the risk of many types of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
It also reduces your risk of overall mortality. So your risk of dying from anything and everything goes down as you get stronger, as you gain more. Muscle. And then there are many positive benefits of strength training that are related to quality of life, better mood, better energy levels, better sleep you like more what you see in the mirror that can lead to more intimacy in your romantic relationships.
Many people report higher levels of productivity in their work, more mental clarity. The list goes on and on. Now, what is a healthy body composition? Well, let’s start with body fatness. So let’s start with men. So a healthy range of body fatness in men is between about eight and 15% body fat. You maybe could stretch that to 20, but ideally body fat in the range of.
Eight to 15%, and that means percent of overall body weight. So if a guy, let’s just say weighs 200 pounds for simple math, 200 pounds, 8% body fat is 16 pounds of fat in his body, 15% is 30 pounds of fat in his body. And as for muscle, I mentioned earlier that a healthy body composition includes above average levels of muscle and muscularity.
That does not mean, of course, that you need to look like a body builder or you have to get jacked just to be healthy. However, research shows that in men, ideally, they would have at least 15 pounds of more muscle than the average guy who doesn’t train his muscles. And there are additional benefits to having more muscle, 30 more pounds of muscle than the average guy who doesn’t train his muscles is healthier and is more functional, is better in every way than 15 more pounds.
But the range of what’s. Optimal, I would say starts at about 15 more pounds of muscle than the average guy of average build who does not train his muscles. Now in women, let’s first talk body fat. So the ideal range of body fat for women for the purposes of health. Is somewhere between 18 and 23, maybe you could stretch that 25% body fat as women get beyond 25.
Certainly as they approach 30% and get beyond 30% body fat, that is not ideal from a health perspective. It will negatively impact their health. And depending on how fat they are, and depending on other factors related to their genetics and their lifestyle, it may have a minor negative effect. It’s on their health, or it may have a major negative effect.
So again, ideally body fatness in the range of 18 to 23, maybe 25% of body weight is body fat. And as for muscularity, the health benefits really begin around 10 pounds of more muscle than the average woman who does not train her muscles. And like with men. More muscle is better for health and longevity and function and all of the other benefits associated with having more muscle than the average person.
Now, you might be surprised to hear, get as jacked as you can as a health prescription, that getting more jacked generally means getting healthier, and that’s true. So long as you don’t use steroids. Now I’m talking about natural muscle building and achieving your natural limits for muscularity. Not that you have to do that, but if you want to do that, there are additional health benefits to doing that versus only gaining maybe half.
Of the amount of muscle that you could gain given your anatomy and given your genetics. And so given that context and all other things being equal, the more jacked you can get, naturally, the healthier you are going to be. Now, one final question I want to answer before moving on is how to measure your body composition.
There are many ways of doing that. You can use scales that run electricity through your body and purport to measure your body composition. Many of them are very inaccurate. Some of them can do it well. You have CalPERS, that’s another method. You have dexa, which is a whole body X-ray scan and other methods.
But for our purposes here, you only need to do a few things. One is take. Regular pictures because then you can compare those pictures to pictures of different body fat levels that have been validated by strong evidence-based methods to at least understand your body fat range. You won’t know whether you are nine or 10 or 12% body fat by just.
Looking at pictures, but you will know that you are in the range of, let’s say, nine to 12% body fat. Or in the case of a woman, you won’t know whether you are 19 or 20 or 21, but you will know that you are somewhere between 19 and 22, maybe 23% body fat just with pictures. And then if you want to track how your body composition is changing, you can pay attention to your body weight.
You can pay attention to the circumference of your waist. And if you really want to get granular, you can also take some skin fold measurements with cas. And if you wanna learn about those methods, uh, and a few others, head over to legion athletics.com, search for body composition. And you should see an article called What is Body Composition and How Do You Measure It?
And in that article, you, you’ll learn all about body composition. And the different ways of measuring it. There also are some charts that accurately represent different body fat levels in men and women. So you can compare your body to those charts to understand your approximate range of body fatness, and you can learn the right way to track your weight, the right way to measure your waist, the right way to take caliper measurements and more.
Okay, the next metric on the list is resting heart rate, which is the number of times your heart beats per minute when you are at rest. And this is important to pay attention to because a lower resting heart rate can mean a higher degree of physical fitness, which can mean a lower risk of cardiac events like heart attacks.
And on the other hand, a high resting heart rate can indicate an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. And there is the wear and tear factor. Fewer beats every day, month, year means more longevity. Now, what is a healthy resting heart rate? Well, research shows that between 60 and a hundred beats per minute is the healthy range.
60 being the lower end, obviously in a hundred, being the higher, and being closer to 60 or below. 60 is significantly better than being at 90 or 100. And as for how to measure it, you can just use an app on your phone. That’s the easiest way. Instead of doing it the manual way where you are feeling your heartbeats and your wrist for 30 seconds and doubling.
I mean, you can do that if you want, but most people, they just use an app on their phone. And two tips. One, don’t take your resting heart rate within one or two hours after a workout or a very stressful event because your heart rate can stay elevated after strenuous activities. So make sure it’s several hours after a workout or something very stressful.
And make sure that you have been relatively inactive for about 10 minutes. So like sitting, we’re lying down for 10 minutes before you take your resting heart rate. If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, please do consider supporting my Sports Nutrition Company Legion, which just released a new product, which is Ssom Magnesium.
And what is that and why should you care? Well, those are good questions. Let’s start with magnesium, which is an essential mineral that is involved in hundreds of enzyme systems that regulate many critical bodily processes, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose and blood pressure control and more.
And while it’s possible to get enough magnesium to maintain health through diet alone, that can be difficult for a few reasons. One, It requires eating several servings per day of foods that many people don’t eat or don’t want to eat, like pumpkin seeds, almonds, spinach, cashews, peanuts, oatmeal, and black beans.
Nothing wrong with those foods, of course, but again, many people don’t like to eat them or don’t want to eat as much of them as they would need to eat to get enough magnesium. Another reason why. Many people don’t get enough. Magnesium is fruit and vegetables contain much less magnesium than they did in the past.
And the third reason is food processing removes around 80% of magnesium from foods. What’s more research suggests that the recommended daily allowance. For magnesium, which is between 300 and 420 milligrams per day, for most people, is adequate for preventing a deficiency but may not produce optimal health and longevity, which of course should be our ultimate goal.
And all of those reasons are why many health conscious people who eat a nutritious diet also choose to supplement with magnesium, especially if they’re physically active, because exercise can deplete your body’s magnesium stores. So that’s. The magnesium part of this new Ssom magnesium product that I just released.
And what is the ssom part? Well, that is a patented form of magnesium that I chose over cheaper and more frequently used forms because studies show that ssom magnesium is better assimilated by the body and far better than magnesium oxide in particular, which is one of the most common forms found in supplements.
And so then what you have in Ssom, magnesium is a highly bioavailable. Supplemental form of magnesium that has been shown to improve athletic performance, reduce blood pressure, improve bone mineral density and strength, reduce blood sugar levels and the risk of type two diabetes, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and improve blood vessel health.
And reduce the risk of migraine headaches. And so if you are not currently supplementing with magnesium, it’s worth considering adding it to your regimen similar to vitamin D, vitamin K, because chances are you are not getting enough to optimize. Your health, your performance, your wellbeing. You might be getting enough magnesium to prevent an insufficiency or a deficiency, but if you are not also supplementing with it, you are not getting all of the possible benefits that magnesium can confer.
And so if you want to check out my new ssom Magnesium product, just head over to bi legion.com, B Y L E G I n.com/mag, m a g. And if the spirits move, you pick up a bottle and see for yourself what it can do for you. Okay, next we have blood sugar levels, which refers to the concentration of glucose, which is a type of sugar in your blood.
And your body creates glucose by breaking down the carbohydrates that you eat. And when this happens, your pancreas secretes the hormone insulin, which then transports the glucose into your body’s cells. Where it’s used for energy or in some cases, and usually in very small amounts, if at all, is stored as fat for later use.
Many people don’t know that carbohydrate is rarely converted directly into body fat, dietary fat, however, Is preferentially stored as body fat. It is chemically similar to body fat. It does not require much processing to store as body fat, and that actually is one of the reasons that we have to eat a certain amount of dietary fat to stay alive.
Now, the reason why it’s important to understand how your body is processing glucose is if it is not processing glucose well and you have high blood sugar. Levels or hyperglycemia as it’s referred to, that can cause a range of symptoms, including frequent urination, excessive thirst, itchy skin fatigue, and if this becomes a chronic condition, if your blood sugar levels remain elevated too often for too long, you also increase your risk of all kinds of health problems, heart disease, stroke, kidney nerve damage, and.
Much more. Now, your blood sugar levels can also be too low hypoglycemia, and that can happen if you haven’t eaten enough food or you haven’t eaten in a while, or if you have exercised very intensely or maybe you took too much of a glucose lowering medication. And while hypoglycemia can be unpleasant, it can be dangerous.
It isn’t much of a concern for most people unless they have diabetes. Hyperglycemia. High blood sugar levels is particularly what most of us are trying to avoid, trying to prevent. Now, there are two types of blood sugar tests that you want to do to understand your blood sugar levels. You have the fasting blood sugar test, and you have the hemoglobin A1C test, so a fasting blood sugar test.
What that does is it measures your blood sugar levels after you’ve been in a fasted state for at least eight hours, and a fasted state is where your body has. Finished processing the nutrients and the food that you last ate, and your insulin is at a low baseline level because it’s not needed to be elevated because there is no more food to process.
And then we have the hemoglobin A1C test, which measures your average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months. So the fasting blood sugar test gives you a snapshot of when you get your blood drawn. What does your blood sugar levels look like right then? While the hemoglobin A1C test allows you to understand what your blood sugar levels have been like over the last couple of months, and the reason it works is when sugar enters your bloodstream, it attaches to hemoglobin, and that’s a protein in your red blood cells.
And we all have some sugar attached to hemoglobin. In our blood, but people with higher blood sugar levels have more. So the A1C test, it looks at the percentage of your red blood cells that have hemoglobin, that is sugar coated. And from there we can understand what your blood sugar levels have looked like over the last couple of months.
Now when you do these tests, you want to see a fasting blood sugar level below 99 milligrams per deciliter. That’s considered healthy, and you wanna see a hemoglobin A1C level below 5.7%. Now, as for how often you should be checking your blood sugar levels. If you are healthy, you should not get a continuous glucose monitor and check them many times per day.
Don’t do that. That is a waste of time. It is a waste of money. All you’re going to learn is that your blood sugar levels, if, if you are healthy, are almost always in a healthy range. Rarely will you see them outside of the healthy range, and if they are, it’s probably because you just ate a pint of ice cream.
So instead of the C G M device, I recommend the standard medical advice, which is get your blood sugar checked at least once every couple of years. Many people do it once per year because they get blood drawn to check other things, including the next item on my list. Cholesterol triglyceride levels, but also then you can look at hormones.
Which can be important to look at, but is mostly important to older people who are experiencing symptoms related to low levels of, it’s usually testosterone in men and estrogen in women. And in women. This is unavoidable as they move into menopause, there are hormonal changes that. Are going to happen. It doesn’t matter how healthy their body composition is and their lifestyle is and so forth.
In men, it is different. There is a general biological decline, of course, as we get older. But if we take good care of ourselves, especially if we start the healthy habits at a young age and continue them into our middle-aged years and beyond. We can stave off the t r T for longer than a lot of people think.
We don’t necessarily need to be taking exogenous hormones when we are 40, 50, or even 60 years old. It really does depend on our individual bodies. Eventually, if we want to maintain a high quality of life and optimal health. Yes, we probably are going to need to introduce exogenous hormones into our regimen.
But again, if we take good care of ourselves, we may be able to avoid it a lot longer than we think. Okay, so the fifth and final health metric that I recommend you track is a pair. It’s a duo. It’s cholesterol and triglyceride levels. So let’s talk about cholesterol first. This is a pale, waxy substance that’s chemically similar to fat and it’s present in all cells in our body.
And our body uses it to make hormones, to make vitamin D to make various chemicals that help us digest food. And there are two main types of cholesterol, and those are low density lipoprotein, L D L, and high density lipoprotein hdl. Now, LDL cholesterol is generally referred to as the bad cholesterol because it can accumulate in the walls of your arteries, and then that forms a plaque that narrows the hollow passageway through the artery, and that’s where the blood flows, and that then increases your risk of health complications Now, H D L cholesterol is often referred to as the good cholesterol because it helps remove L D L cholesterol from the bloodstream and transport it to the liver where it’s processed and it is eliminated from the body.
Okay, so that’s cholesterol. Now let’s talk about triglycerides. So a triglyceride is a lipid. Which is a fat or a fat like substance that is found in the blood, and it plays a vital role in our cardiovascular health in particular. Now, triglycerides are called triglycerides because they’re made up of three fatty acids.
So you have the try and one glycerol molecule and they’re stored in fat cells. They are released into the bloodstream. When our body requires energy, like when we’re exercising, for example, There are heightened levels of triglycerides in our blood, which are then used for energy. You’ll also find triglycerides in many foods, especially those that are high in saturated and trans fats, and you can monitor your cholesterol and your triglycerides with a blood test called a lipid profile, which measures the levels of total cholesterol, L D L cholesterol.
HDL, cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood. Now, all of that sounds fairly simple, but when you try to make sense of a lipid profile, it can get complicated because the numbers that you get are based on very large, very complex studies and very complex statistical calculations that can vary based.
Done many different factors including your age, sex, medical history, weight, body composition, lifestyle, medication regimen and more. For example, if you are a young non-smoking woman with no history of heart disease and a healthy body composition, a healthy L D L level for you. Could be very different than it is for an older, overweight chain smoking man.
Additionally, the ranges of ldl, hdl, triglycerides that are considered healthy and unhealthy are changing. They’re being updated by scientists based on the latest evidence and latest research. That said, you can get a good general understanding of your lipid profile on whether it is healthy or not based on the accepted ranges that scientists have hashed out over the.
Many years and decades that they’ve been studying this stuff. And so some good rules of thumb are for looking at total cholesterol, a low risk of disease and dysfunction. A low risk profile would be under 200 milligrams of cholesterol, total cholesterol per deciliter of. Blood and a medium risk would be 200 to 239 mg slash dl.
High risk would be over two 40 milligrams per deciliter of blood. And if we look at LDL cholesterol in particular, low risk for people who have heart disease and or diabetes would be under 70. So that’s. MG slash dl. Low risk for people at risk of heart disease would be under 100. Low risk for people without heart disease, which would be high risk for people with heart disease.
That would be 100 to 1 29. Medium risk for people without heart disease. High risk for people with heart disease would be 1 32, 1 59, and high risk for people without heart disease. Very high risk for people with heart disease would be one 60 to 180 9. And very high risk for everyone. For people with and without heart disease would be over one 90 milligrams of LDL cholesterol per deciliter of blood.
Now, if we move on to H dl, cholesterol, low risk would be over 60 milligrams per deciliter of blood. Medium risk would be 40 to 59. High risk would be under 40. Remember, HDL helps your body keep healthy levels of ldl, helps your body prevent that buildup of plaque in your arteries. And finally, we have triglycerides.
So a low risk classification would be under 150 mg slash dl triglycerides, so 150 milligrams of triglycerides per deciliter of blood. Medium risk would be one 50 to 1 99. High risk would be 200 to 4 99 and very high risk would be over 500. And as for how often, you should get a lipid profile done. The general advice for healthy adults is to get your cholesterol and your triglycerides checked every four to six years.
Some people do it more often than that. Again, I, I mentioned many people, especially over 40, they will get. Blood drawn once a year, and they’ll look at various things. They’ll look at their blood sugar levels, they’ll look at their cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They’ll look at their nutrient status just to make sure that they are not insufficient in any key nutrients.
Most people who get blood drawn often or once a year even are not gonna be deficient in anything because they care about their health. They probably eat well, they probably supplement as well, but it’s possible that. Vitamin D levels could be lower. Maybe it’s vitamin K or vitamin b12, and that’s good to know because then you can address it.
Well, I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes. And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people.
Who may like it just as much as you. And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you have, uh, ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share, shoot me an email, mike muscle for life.com, muscle f o r life.com and let me know what I could do better or just, uh, what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future.
I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.
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