About Your Biometric Numbers: Short Term vs Long Term Solutions

When you get your biometric numbers, if there are values that show you have to improve your health status, there are a couple of ways to take action, based on what you find.

Act now button on computer keypad

Short Term Solution 

If you find that you are in the HIGH risk category for some biometric, this warrants immediate attention from your doctor. Go to them right away for counselling on the best course of action. They may provide medication to correct the numbers, or some other action.

This downside of this kind of short term solution is that it does not create healthy living behaviors. The upside is that it corrects for poor ones.

Man viewing short versus long term directions

Long Term Solution

By contrast, according to the CDC, 75% of chronic disease symptoms can be managed by changing lifestyle behaviors like diet, activity, and mindfulness. In other words, in the vast majority of cases you can correct your numbers yourself by altering your lifestyle.

The downside of this is that it can be difficult — much harder that popping a pill. Lifestyle changes can involve family, friends, routines, background, culture, workplace, and on and on. In other words, those bad behaviors have been ingrained and are tough to reverse.

The upside is that there are no medications involved, no side effects, and once you establish the healthy living habits they’ll last a lifetime.

But these lifestyle alterations take time to practice, learn, and become routine before they start improving your numbers. So the message is to be patient with yourself, and with the process of creating new healthier habits. Take the long view.

NOTE: if your numbers indicate a high risk for any of the biometrics, you may need immediate help. In other words, lifestyle modifications are the way to manage your biometrics in the long term. If you need immediate correction to the numbers, start with the clinical route.

About Your Biometric Numbers: False Positives

goldfish with shark fin is example of a false positiveBiometric screenings provide numbers that are important for understanding your health status. But unfortunately sometimes the objective data can give what are known as a “false positive”. This means that your data may show that you have medium or even a high risk level for a chronic disease like obesity, cholesterol, or hypertension. But even though the data are correct, the interpretation is not.

Below are three examples of biometric screening data that can give you false positives, leading you to believe that you may have a chronic condition when you may not at all. As with all medical topics, always consult your doctor for any questions or clarifications that you need.

 

The Body Mass Index (BMI)

The BMI is a measure of overweight and obesity. However, this biometric has a serious flaw because it basically compares your height to your weight, gets a ratio of one to the other, and uses that determine whether you are of normal weight, overweight, or obese.

On the face of it, it seems completely commonsensical. For example, if two people are both exactly the same height at six foot tall, but the first one weighs 200 pounds while the other person weighs 180 pounds. Clearly, the first one should be more overweight.

But the problem with the logic is that our muscle weighs more than our fat. So people who lift weights or even those who have more muscle tone will read higher on the BMI scale. Athletes who are obviously fit and healthy can have a BMI reading that puts them into the overweight or obese category.

This is a clear false positive.

 

Cholesterol

Many things can impact your cholesterol levels and produce a temporary change in your body’s chemistry. If you get your screenings down during a swing in your cholesterol, the number read may not reflect the actual value. Here are some ways that could happen:

Short term reductions in lipid levels:

  1. If you have had a recent cardiac event like a heart attack or stroke.
  2. If you have had recent surgeries or infections.

Short term increases in lipid levels: 

  1. Corticosteroids and estrogen hormones can temporarily raise your lipid levels. If you have been prescribed these medications, let your doctor know.
  2. Pregnancy can increase cholesterol levels. In fact, tests for cholesterol are not considered reliable until 3 months after the baby is born.

Short term changes:

  1. Eating before you get your blood drawn can create these alterations in cholesterol. The safest way to take your cholesterol reading is to fast for 12 hours beforehand so there is no food on board to muddy the waters.
  2. Along this line, drinking alcoholic beverages also can change the cholesterol readings.

 

Blood Pressure

Your blood vessels have tiny muscles around them like little sleeves. And when these mini-muscular sleeves contract, it can pinch down the bore of the blood vessel. When the vessel squeezes in on the blood, suddenly the space inside gets much smaller, even though the amount of blood stays the same!

When that happens, the blood presses harder on the walls of the vessels and this causes your blood pressure reading to increase. When the vessels relax again, the pressure comes back down as well.

In addition to constriction of the blood vessels, many things cause temporary changes in blood pressure: when you wake up in the morning, go from sitting to standing, walk a flight of stairs, and even when you are nervous. All these variables can cause false positives as well, as when the reading is correct but the interpretation is not.

Consult your doctor of course, but also understand that you can have the most confidence in your blood pressure reading if you take it multiple times in the same way each time. Be calm, not winded, and sitting down. Also, having those multiple readings taken to confirm your values can provide more certainty in your actual blood pressure.

About Your Biometric Numbers: Nibble Away At Those Bad Values

You cannot simply eat your way to health, because proper nutrition alone is not enough. A true lifestyle approach includes mindfullness and activity as well.

That said, healthy eating habits is a great place to start to improve your numbers. When thinking about what to do to improve your nutrition, consider two aspects: quantity and quality.

Quality

Healthy Lunch Portions

Nutritional research demonstrates that a Mediterranean style diet is associated with lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. To eat in this manner, even if you do not live there, here are some tips:

  • Choose whole foods and limit foods that contain artificial ingredients.
  • Make vegetables the building blocks of your diet, with at least two servings at lunch and dinner.
  • Choose monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, almonds and avocados.
  • Eat a diet that is primarily plant-based by choosing: fruits, beans, nuts, whole grains and seeds.
  • Animal products such as red meat and processed meats should be the smaller portion on your plate.
  • Choose seafoods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, and halibut.
  • Plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, pine-nuts and soybeans.
  • Limit consumption of high sugar drinks and, on occasion, choose the all-natural dessert options.

 

Quantity

Do you need a rule to help you become healthier? Here’s a key rule that applies to any nutritional approach: Eat Small, Be Small. Eating more food than your body needs can move your biometric profile into the at-risk range. All healthy dietary cultures, regardless of the specific cuisines they consume, eat meals in control.

Portion Distortion ComparisonUse these tips to aid you control portions.

  • If you eat faster, you will be more likely to overeat. So slow down, and take smaller bites when you eat.
  • Sugar consumption can create cravings, leaving to overeating. Cut sugar from your diet where you can.
  • Start with just a bit less than you think you want, then go back for more afterwards if you are still hungry.
  • Train your cravings. The amount you are hungry for can be trained. If you eat large, that will be what your body expects. So eat small, to be small.

By controlling quantity and quality, you can get all the nutritional benefits of the healthier food options, but without eating so much that those same food become bad for you. Win win!

About Your Biometric Numbers: Why Are They Important

Employees often do their worksite wellness screenings, get their numbers, and walk out of the door feeling like this whole exercise was one big FYI. “Huh, yeah that’s interesting or whatever.” But it is important to understand your biometric numbers for a couple of reasons.

Chronic Diseases Sneak Up On You

Dr Explaining to PatientMost chronic diseases do not have any symptoms. In other words, you won’t realize that the condition is progressing until it is too late. That is why knowing your numbers helps you to be proactive with your health. Those biometric numbers may be the only warning sign you have.

Then, once you know your values and see that you are in the Medium Risk category, or the High Risk category, you can do something to head off an incident before it happens. For example …

  • If your blood glucose is elevated, this indicates a risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
  • High triglycerides, blood pressure or cholesterol indicates a risk for heart disease.
  • High BMI is a predictor of heart disease and diabetes as well as certain types of cancers

The good news is that common lifestyle habits can help you target the numbers that put you at risk.

 

You Can See Your Own Improvement

Good Better Best signsThe other important aspect of biometric numbers is that you can see your trend over time. Not all solutions are equally effective for everyone. If you are working to improve your numbers through a special kind of dietary intervention or exercise regimen, how do you know if it is working?

If you have your first biometric numbers, and then applied your own solution, you can compare those numbers over time. Then when you test again, you can see which variables have improved and by how much!

During this month we will talk about biometric numbers, why they’re important, when you should be skeptical enough to ask your doctor, and what to do about them.