Written by: Dr. Dane Donohue, 8WW Co-Founder
What if you could predict or see your future health history, or for that matter, your future illnesses and diseases and what ultimately will claim your life? What if, like a crystal ball, you could see the road you were on and where it was headed? Would you want to know? When it comes to your health right now, do you know where you are precisely?
In my 28 years of practice, I find that most people truly don’t have an accurate picture of their health. Many people think they are healthy, and most people have a “positive illusion” of health. Meaning, they think they are a lot healthier than they really are because they feel ok. However, most people don’t know that health has very little to do with how a person feels. We have to stop judging our health based on the way we feel and start basing it on
This month we’ll be talking about the 5 biomarkers you need to know to understand how you are doing with your overall health and wellness. All of these biomarkers can be done here at our office. Just inquire with one of our Chiropractic assistants to get set up to have them run. One of the doctors will then go over the tests with you.
We can look at a lot of data in the human body to assess its performance, but “know your 5 to stay alive” looks at 5 of the most important pieces of information and data that will determine your performance and longevity now and in the future.
These 5 important biomarkers are:
1. Body Composition: Muscle vs. Fat and where you are carrying your fat.
2. Blood Pressure and Resting Pulse: An indicator of how your cardiovascular system is functioning.
3. Anterior Head Carriage: A measurement of how far forward you head is in relationship to your hips.
HbA1C: Hemoglobin A1C, a biomarker of aging and sugar metabolism
5. Triglyceride/HDL ratio: The strongest predictor of our #1 killer, heart disease.
# 1. Body Composition (muscle vs. fat ratio). Body composition is much different than weight. We
seem to have a fascination (especially women) with weight and Body Mass Index (BMI). Body composition is more about the quality of your weight, not the quantity of your weight. It tells us how much muscle (in pounds and as a percentage of your overall weight) you have compared to the amount of fat on your body (in pounds and as a percentage of your overall weight). Muscle takes about 1/3 less volume than fat and burns 5 times more calories at rest. It’s SO important to our health and proper function! It maintains our balance and strength and I believe is one of the most important tissues in our bodies to maintain and not lose as we age.
Saying the word “fat” doesn’t sound good but we have to confront the brutal reality of our situation. If you are carrying too much fat, especially centrally on your body, you are in trouble. The fat that accumulates in your belly (centripetal
obesity) is a hormone producing machine. In fact, belly fat produces 17 hormones and many of them are interfering with our health.
To measure this important biomarker, we use a diagnostic piece of equipment called an In-Body and it measures your muscle mass in pounds and as a percentage of your overall weight. It also measures your fat mass in pounds and as a percentage of your overall weight. Also, it can measure WHERE you are carrying your muscle and fat and it gives you a “visceral fat index” which is a number that goes from 1-20 and represents the square centimeters of fat you have in your midsection or belly, which is the worst place to carry fat for your health.
#2. Blood pressure and Resting pulse make up the next key biomarker. Combined, these
numbers will tell you a lot about your cardiovascular health. Let’s talk about blood pressure first. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mm hg. Blood pressure represent the pressure being applied to the inside wall of the artery. Think of water flowing through your pipes, you need some pressure to keep the water going but too much pressure isn’t good because it can cause damage to the pipe. Know the common causes of hypertension and address them if necessary. These include lack of sleep, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, magnesium deficiency, and chronic stress.
Resting pulse is also linked with longevity. A study, published in Heart, suggests that a higher resting heart rate is an independent predictor of mortality — even in healthy people in good physical condition. Staying hydrated, exercise
(especially high-intensity interval training), limiting stimulants such as coffee, reducing and managing stress, eating more fish, getting more sleep, and
practicing mindfulness techniques such as meditation and yoga will all have a
positive impact on your resting heart rate.
# 3. Anterior Head Carriage:
Anterior is the descriptive term that describes the front of your body, and posterior is the back of
your body which is why your rear-end is sometimes referred to as your “posterior”. So, anterior head carriage is when the head shifts forward out in front of the body. It what you would refer to as “bad posture” or “hunch-back”. Research shows that for every inch the head moves forward out in front of the hips, it adds 10 pounds of force on the body. The human head weighs about 7.5% of its total body weight so in a 150 pound person, the head would weigh about 11 lbs. If you take an 11 pound mass and start moving it away from center of gravity, it gets heavier and becomes harder to carry. Think about how we carry a bag of groceries into the house. We hug it into our body or carry it alongside our body. What we don’t do is hold it and carry it out in front of our body with our arms extended away from us. It would make no sense because it would become much harder to carry. The term in physics is called “torque”. Anterior head carriage puts torque on the back of our spine because the weight is pulling us forward and putting a strain on our body. Structurally speaking, a building should not be out of alignment like the leaning tower of Pisa. It should be perfectly straight up and down, so the loads are distributed properly. In your body, the head should be right over the shoulders, shoulders over the hips, hips over the knees and knees over the ankles. From the front, the head, shoulders, rib cage, pelvis, hip and knees should all be level. Take a look at yourself from the side and from the front. Better yet, have someone
take a picture from the side and the front. We take digital pictures of patients and evaluate them using a computer program that analyzes alignment and posture and give specific details on where alignment problems exist.
I’ve seen this in my 27 years of practice. One of my favorite quotes is that “Posture follows movement like a shadow”. People with poor posture, whether that is in the frontal plane or side plane, don’t move well and if you don’t move well, you won’t age well. Movement is the foundation of life and good posture is the foundation of movement.
Good posture is not a matter of just standing up straight. It’s so much more than that. Good alignment of the spine, pelvis and hips, a strong core, a flexible core and some work is what it takes to develop good alignment and posture. It’s not good luck, its hard work.
# 4. Hemoglobin A1C is a blood test that is an indicator of how much “glycation” is happening in
the body. Glycation occurs when sugars combine with certain amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) or fats causing advanced glycation end-products (AGE’s) to form. This process of glycation changes the proteins and fats in your body by “stiffening” them rendering them less useful in the body and aging the body. Flexibility, even at the cellular level, is
Glycation and elevated A1C is more likely to occur when blood sugar is elevated, which explains the higher levels of AGEs in people with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes. One danger of AGEs is that they can clog the very small blood vessels (microvascular system) throughout the body, especially in the kidneys, eyes, heart, and brain, which may contribute to the risk of various diabetic complications. According to the
British Medical Journal, the predictive value of HbA1C for total mortality is stronger than that documented for cholesterol concentration, body mass index
and blood pressure.
# 5 Triglyceride/HDL Ratio is one of the most important blood ratios you should know. Traditionally, cholesterol was the “gold standard” for predicting
heart disease, the number one killer of men and women in the U.S. However, research in the past 30 years has shown that it’s not your total cholesterol
that matters but your ratio of good cholesterol particles (big, fluffy particles) to bad cholesterol particles (small, dense particles). We now know that it is not the cholesterol that causes arteriosclerosis but the protein that carries the cholesterol that is the culprit. Cholesterol can’t float freely in our blood; it has to be transported by proteins and these proteins are
called “lipoproteins”. A study found that Triglyceride/HDL ratio above 4 was the most powerful predictor of cardiovascular disease independent of total cholesterol. Other studies have
shown that 50% of the people who die of cardiovascular disease have normal
If you want to live a long, healthy life, it is important to know the key biomarkers that can accurately predict how well you are doing, not just on the outside but on the inside of your body. We put lots of time and money on “looking good” on the outside but truthfully our insides are just as important if not more. We would do well to understand and take care of the inside of our
bodies, those parts we can’t see with the naked eye. These “know your 5 to stay alive” numbers can let you know how beautiful you look on the inside, and how
long and how well you will live into the future.