- Simple calculators are available to measure your risk and health status in several key areas;
- Links are provided for calculators in Metabolic Syndrome, cardiovascular risk, VO2 max, strength, and flexibility;
- Poor scores in any of these areas can help you focus your fitness efforts.
Adults in most western countries are faced with many day-to-day challenges that interfere with our ability to achieve good health. Work stress, family stress, too much time spent commuting, easy access to low quality fast food, etc.- these all have negative effects on our health. Yet it’s still possible to start making inroads towards better health.
I believe in data, and there are some numbers all of us should know. For those motivated to take action you can then use the numbers to target areas of focus. There are literally hundreds of data points you can gather but I highlight here five measurements that you might not be familiar with, but are incredibly useful and easily obtained. In coming weeks I’ll expand on each of these topics along with practical applications. For now, have a look at these risk calculators to get an idea of where you stand.
- Metabolic Syndrome Risk Score
Metabolic syndrome is a term used to describe a “pre-diabetic” condition. Individuals with metabolic syndrome have elevated fasting blood glucose, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and increased abdominal fat.
Research is showing that metabolic syndrome is a precursor to increased risk for many negative health outcomes, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and fatty liver disease.
You’ll need some lab values obtained at your annual physical exam, along with your maximal abdominal size. Plug those numbers into this calculator to get a score for your risk of metabolic syndrome.
- Cardiovascular Risk Score
Cardiovascular disease is on the rise in the U.S. Even people living in so-called “healthy” exercise-focused communities seem to be at increasing risk.
There is some debate on which lifestyle factors and blood tests provide the most accurate assessment of risk, but there is good agreement that a calculator based on thoroughly vetted scientific studies is an excellent tool to predict your 10-year risk of heart attack or stroke. It’s used for ages 40-79, and for those people who have never had a heart attack or stroke.
Check out the American Heart Association’s cardiac risk calculator here.
- VO2 Max
VO2 is a measurement of the efficiency with which your body uses oxygen during activities. VO2 testing used to be measured only for elite endurance athletes and required a laboratory with sophisticated testing equipment, but not so any more.
We now know that VO2 testing is important for all individuals and is an indicator of your overall health, regardless of whether you’re an athlete or not. Accurate VO2 estimates can be obtained from several smart watches, but I’m a fan of a very simple one-mile walking test called the Rockport Walk Test.
You walk a mile as fast as you can, record the amount of time you took and check your heart rate right at the conclusion of the mile. It’s best with a chest strap heart rate monitor, but you can also get a good idea with simply counting your pulse. Plug the numbers in to this calculator, it’s remarkably accurate.
- Strength Assessment- Upper Body
Resistance training is often neglected by adults, with adults who do exercise often focusing on “cardio”. We know that resistance training becomes increasingly important with age, even for adults in their 80s. An interesting study published last year showed a substantial risk reduction in active adult males who could do 40 or more push-ups.
There are many ways to assess strength, and obviously the study referenced above ignores lower extremity and core strength. But check out the push-up calculator here. Super fast, no equipment needed.
- Flexibility Assessment
Sitting in your car or being stuck to your desk chair at work will eventually make you stiff as a board. This will have negative effects on your movement quality, and can lead to joint and body pain. If left uncorrected it will ultimately contribute to increased fall risk in your later years.
As with the other metrics above, there are many ways to assess flexibility. I’ll go in to detail in future posts, but for now check out a simple sit and reach test. Be forewarned, this is probably the one test people score poorly on…