With a desire to be healthy comes the question: what exactly is being healthy, and how do I measure it? Looking at yourself in the mirror is a pretty good indication of how healthy you`re, but it is far from a complete picture of how you fare in the battle with yourself for living at your Paleolithic best. With that in mind, here are a number of Paleo Health Indicators (PHIs) that will allow you to objectively track your progress as the Paleo Diet improves your health:
Fasting Insulin Levels – This is one of the most important measures. It is a measure of how healthy your metabolism is. You want this to be low. Having chronically high insulin levels, or hyperinsulinemia, wreaks havoc on everything, resulting in hypertension, increased risk of diabetes, increased risk of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), and for women results in increased risk of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and increased synthesis of VLDL cholesterol, among other damaging side effects.
Body Composition – The ratio of body fat to lean muscle. Like fasting insulin levels, you want this measure to be low, as body fat secretes hormones that decrease insulin sensitivity. Pay attention to your body fat/lean muscle ratio instead of obtuse measures like the BMI index. The BMI index is nonsensical given that it does not distinguish between muscle and fat, placing a 6’1″, 200 lb, 8% body fat individual in the “Overweight” category, which is clearly absurd.
Strength – You want to be as strong as possible. Increased strength translates into increased muscle mass, which increases your insulin sensitivity. Increased muscular strength also translates into reduced risk of cancer mortality.
Physiologic Capacity – Think of this as your fight-or-flight capacity. Sprinters have this in abundance and joggers do not. If you can sprint, then you can consider yourself to be in good Paleolithic shape. Another way to measure your capacity is testing how many multiples of your resting metabolic rate (MET) you can reach whilst exercising. Try using an exercise bike to measure your power output and strive to be in the top category—being capable of producing a level of 13+ METs (this will leave you in the lowest cancer risk category).
Testosterone – Contributes to body composition and vitality in both sexes. Abnormally low levels are associated with depression, bad mood, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome. Low testosterone levels are also associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Paleo Health Indicators Summary
Here are values you should be aiming for to be at your Paleolithic best:
Low fasting insulin levels (Pacific Islander hunter gatherers have been found with 5 international units per milliliter)
Low percentage body fat
High level of strength
High physiologic capacity
Appropriately high testosterone levels (males: above 600 nanograms per deciliter)
Following up on Paleo Health Indicators (PHI’s), here are several crucial lab values that will allow you to track your progress objectively as you follow the Paleo Diet:
C-Reactive Protein (CRP) – An incredibly reliable predictor of cardiovascular inflammation and heart disease. CRP level more accurately predicts cardiac events than does triglycerides or cholesterol.
Glycated Hemoglobin (HbA1C) – Another excellent measure of systemic inflammation. It measures how much sugar is sticking to your red blood cells. HbA1C is a better measure than plain glucose levels, since blood glucose can be abnormally elevated or depressed depending on stress, sleep loss, or exercise. Also red blood cells are replaced every 4 months, so measuring glycated hemoglobin gives you a history of your glucose levels.
Good and Bad Cholesterol – Good cholesterol, or HDL, transports lipids back to the liver to be metabolized. Bad cholesterol, or LDL and VLDL, are oxidized easily and create lesions in the blood vessels. You want higher good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol.
LDL particle size – You want these to be Type A, which are large and puffy, and not Type B, which are small and dense. Type B are atherogenic, and having high insulin levels promotes their formation. LDL particle type is an even more accurate measure of your health than overall cholesterol levels.
Triglycerides – This is the amount of fat circulating in your bloodstream. You want this measure to be low. Excess fat is not simply something that clings to your body. It is living tissue that secretes equilibrium disrupting hormones, disrupting your body’s normal state.
Paleo Health Indicators Summary
Here are more values you should be aiming for to thrive at your Paleolithic best:
C-Reactive Protein: < 1
Glycated Hemoglobin (HbA1C): < 5
LDL Particle Size: you want big and puffy Type A particles, not small and dense Type B
LDL cholesterol: 40-70
HDL cholesterol > 50
You’ll want to get lab work done before you embark on your Paleo Diet journey, and then again about three months into it, and from then on, roughly twice a year is good enough.
Coming up here at thebestpaleocookbook.blogspot.com we’ll be offering you delicious Paleo diet recipes to get you on your way towards being the satisfied and exuberant self you deserve to be!