Most of us are inundated with numbers every day. From the mundane phone numbers, passwords, sports scores and spreadsheets to the more esoteric Wall Street derivatives and mortgage-backed securities, our society couldn’t function without numbers. The specific numbers may vary from profession to profession but without exception, numbers are how we keep track. But as important as any of those numbers may be, when is the last time one of them saved your life?
In medicine, knowing the right numbers can tell how healthy you really are; ranging from how well you are aging to your individual risk of developing diseases that could impact or shorten your life. When it comes to your health, what you don’t know can really hurt you. So, what are some of the key parameters to check?
For Longevity and Overall Wellness, Get These Medical Tests
To begin taking charge of your health there are a few tests I would recommend. While not an exhaustive list, these critical numbers can put you on the road to a healthier, longer life:
- Telomere length – Measuring telomere length tells you your biological age. Telomeres are the end caps on your chromosomes that protect the genetic material. Telomeres are longer when you are young and gradually shorten as you age. But at any given age, people who are healthier have longer telomeres than their unhealthy counterparts. Short telomeres are linked with an increased risk of developing the chronic diseases associated with aging; such as cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, cancer and dying from cancer. Recent studies have shown that faster rates of telomere shortening are associated with dying prematurely. The good news is that the rate of telomere shortening can be modified by changes in lifestyle. There is even some evidence that telomeres can be lengthened by regular vigorous exercise and by a new supplement called TA65. This supplement has been shown to activate the telomerase enzyme that builds and maintains telomeres. It is the only commercially available telomerase activator found safe for people to consume.
- Body fat percentage – Obesity and excess body fat are associated with poor health outcomes, greater risk for cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, several cancers and cognitive decline. Some advise maintaining a healthy weight but it the fat that is the problem. Other measures such as BMI are notoriously inexact. A healthy body fat percentage is different depending on age, but a generally between 18-22% for men and 20-26% for women. If you are not able to get an accurate body fat percentage (calipers and home scales are typically inaccurate), using waist circumference and/or waist-to-hip ratios are reasonable alternatives. The risk of premature death doubles for waist circumference over 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women. Interestingly, obese individuals have shorter telomeres than normal weight people.
- Blood pressure – High blood pressure, or hypertension, has been called the silent killer because there may not be any symptoms until you have a heart attack or stroke. In fact, the number one preventable risk factor for stroke is unrecognized high blood pressure. Measuring your internal or central blood pressure is a more accurate reflection of your cardiovascular risk than the traditional cuff pressure measurements. Until recently, this was only possible through an invasive procedure that was not practical for routine blood pressure measurement. But using the non-invasive SphygmoCor Pulse Wave Analysis, you can get a central blood pressure measurement that is just as accurate. Your blood pressure should be no higher than 120/80 and your central pulse pressure less than 50.
- Blood sugar – To prevent diabetes, measuring only fasting blood sugar is not a sufficient screening tool. Waiting until your fasting blood sugar is abnormal means you have had type-2 diabetes, pre-diabetes or insulin resistance for up to 10 years. It is necessary to combine fasting glucose with hemoglobin A1C and fasting insulin to provide a broader perspective on how your body is handling or mishandling sugar. Remember, nearly 70% of type-2 diabetes is preventable if caught early.
- Cholesterol – Standard cholesterol tests measure total cholesterol, LDL and HDL but are not even as good as a flip of a coin to determine cardiovascular risk. A more accurate barometer of risk from cholesterol is achieved by the VAP profile or LPP test that measures the cholesterol sub-particles for LDL and HDL as well as measuring inflammatory markers, homocysteine and C-reactive protein (CRP), that confer independent cardiovascular risk.
- Intima Medial Thickness (IMT) – Rather than just assessing a risk factor, an IMT scan is a specialized ultrasound conducted on the carotid artery. It effectively examines the state of cardiovascular disease itself – instead of looking at risk factors for the disease. This 10-minute test can detect cardiovascular disease at its earliest stages.
All of these tests and more are part of the in-depth assessments performed at Alternity Healthcare. Call us for more information and to schedule your evaluation. There is no better time than the present to find out exactly how healthy you really are; your life depends on it.