Your Key Body Fitness Markers

Did you know your body provides a number of general wellbeing indicators that could help alert you to potential future health issues? Here are the key body bio-markers that anyone can self-monitor to keep track of their health. 

BODY FAT PERCENTAGE Your body consists of bone, fat and muscle. Fat is vital for a healthy, functioning body – it protects vital organs, cushions joints, helps regulate body temperature, stores vitamins and helps your body sustain itself when food is in short supply. But too much or too little body fat is damaging to health. That is why it is important to measure and monitor your body fat percentage. Body fat percentage gives you a good measure of wellness when used in conjunction with weight – if you’re aiming to lose weight, any weight loss could represent loss of muscle mass rather than fat so you still have a high percentage of fat even when your scales indicate a ‘normal weight’.

VISCERAL FAT PERCENTAGE Visceral fat is located inside your abdominal cavity, surrounding your vital organs. It’s not the fat on the outside that you can pinch. The more visceral fat you have, the greater your chance of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. If you have excess visceral fat, consider modifying your diet or increasing levels of exercise.

MUSCLE MASS PERCENTAGE Knowing our muscle mass % is useful if you’re changing your exercise regime or following a weight loss program. Lean muscle mass can halve between the ages of 20 and 90, and you may replace this loss with fat if you don’t maintain your exercise levels. You can also lose muscle rather than fat if you follow a starvation-type diet, which is not recommended. At rest, your body burns around 110 additional calories for each kilo of muscle gained. So when you come off a starvation-type diet, you put on more weight as fat. Ideally you want to maintain your muscle mass percentage while reducing your fat percentage, especially visceral fat.

WAIST TO HIP RATIO Waist to hip ratio is increasingly used by doctors in preference to Body Mass Index (BMI) as it is a better measure of the risk of obesity and heart disease. Generally, if you have a ratio of 0.75 to 0.8 you’re at low risk of weight-related disease but it’s important to maintain your shape with a healthy diet and regular exercise. The longer you can prevent central fat deposition, the longer and healthier your life will be. An extreme ratio of 0.9 and above, with a very large abdominal girth compared to your hips, means you’re extremely likely to hold dangerous amounts of fat centrally, with a high risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Your lifespan will be shortened by several years unless you do something about your diet and lifestyle.

HEART AND LUNG HEALTH can be assessed using a number of biomarkers.

Blood Pressure Millions of deaths the worldover can be attributed to some form of cardiovascular disease and millions more are at risk but do not know. By self-monitoring your blood pressure you can pick up early warning signs of raised levels that can alert you to seek medical advice to avert an acute cardiovascular incident. Every blood pressure reading consists of two numbers. The first (or top) number is your systolic blood pressure, which is the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats. The second (or bottom) number is your diastolic blood pressure, which is the lowest level your blood pressure reaches as your heart relaxes between beats. Blood pressure is measured in ‘millimetres of mercury’ (mmHg). For example, if your reading is 120/80mmHg, your blood pressure is ‘120 over 80’ this falls within a healthy range. The higher your blood pressure, the higher your risk of health problems. For example, a blood pressure of 135 over 85 may be ‘normal’ but someone with this reading is twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as someone with a reading of 115 over 75..

Pulse oximetry is a non-invasive method that monitors how effectively your blood carries oxygen. A sensor is placed on a fingertip or earlobe and light of two different wavelengths is passed through to a photodetector. The changing absorbance at each of the wavelengths is measured to determine how much is absorbed by your arterial blood.

Peak Expiratory Flow Rate (PEFR) measures how quickly you can blow out air from your lungs, using a peak flow meter like the hand-held unit available. Peak flow readings are higher when you are well and your airways dilated, and lower when your airways are constricted. Changes in recorded values can determine your lung function, especially for people with asthma, smokers and those with obstructive airway disease.

Forced Expiratory Volume (FEV1) is the maximal amount of air you can forcefully exhale in one second. It is then converted to a percentage of the predicted normal value, based on your height, weight, and race. FEV1 is a marker for the degree of obstruction in your lungs and a reading greater than 80% considered normal.

GENERAL WELLNESS SCORE Wellness is generally used to mean a healthy balance of the mind, body and spirit with an overall feeling of wellbeing. Simply decide how well you feel each day on a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 = worst ever, and 10 = best ever. Remember, it’s your body, only you know how you feel!

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