Some health benchmarks are outdated. If you want to stay fit and mentally sharp for life, then consider these new science-proven trackers of well-being.
Every cell in your body relies on water for survival. Studies suggest that dehydration hampers your endurance, motivation and mental sharpness. Problem is, the old eight glasses a day is too broad. It doesn't take into account gender, weight or activity throughout the day. A 70kg man, for instance, needs far less than a 100kg crossfit fanatic.
So stop counting trips to the water cooler and start counting trips to the bathroom. You should be averaging at least 5 trips a day to mean you're well hydrated. If not? Drink.
Devised in the 1830's, BMI was used to estimate 'how fat' someone was by dividing their weight (in kg) by their height (in meters squared).
Out of interest I entered my own measurements into a BMI calculator which you can find at the New Zealand Heart foundations website here; Having a BMI of 25.26, I just scraped into the category that classifies as; "overweight" and of "high risk of developing obesity related diseases". Which is not accurate.
This is BMI's major flaw, in that it does not distinguish between muscle and fat. Measuring BMI alone, certain groups (such as competitive athletes) can be shown inaccurately as obese. This doesn't mean BMI is wrong for everyone, it just means it has its limitations.
A better 'one-off measurement' is the waist-to-hip ratio. A study by Mayo Clinic assessing more than 15,000 adults, found that men with high waist-to-hip ratios were twice as likely to die over the 14 year study as men with high BMI’s.
Waist-to-hip Ratio - How to calculate
To calculate your ratio, measure your waist at your belly button and your hips at their widest point. Divide the first number (waist) by the second (hips). For males 0.90 - 0.95 is the average, so aim for < 0.90. For females 0.80 - 0.85 is the average, so aim for < 0.80.
Numbers above average indicate you have too much visceral fat, the kind that promotes type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
To improve this number, many may be thinking cardio like the treadmill. A better idea is to hit the squat rack. Not only is weighted exercise more effective at burning fat but the higher the 'bottom' number, the better your overall score. So kill 2 birds with 1 stone and burn fat while building a better rear.
Saturated fat took a big hit a few decades back, when research (wrongly) linked it to heart disease. That science has since been debunked and I have talked about it in multiple blogs, but perception lingers. So let’s be clear, there is no solid evidence that saturated fat puts your heart at risk.
What isn’t controversial is the link between cardiovascular health and sitting; the more time you spend in your seat, the more your heart-attack risk spikes. A study in the Journal of Clinical Exercise found inactivity was responsible for twice as many deaths as obesity, and daily workouts don’t completely undo the damage.
Tying in to the first point, drink plenty of water so you are going to the bathroom at least 5 times a day. Don't think of it as an annoyance but rather an opportunity to get up and walk around. Office less than 4 floors up? Walk!
So enjoy a steak. Just earn it with time on your feet.
The sit and reach test (sitting with your legs straight and trying to touch your toes) does have some merit. A study of Japan’s National Institute of Health and Nutrition found that people with more flexibility have less arterial stiffness. Unfortunately, the results apply only to people over 40.
A better test; grip strength. By following 140,000 adults, international researchers linked a weaker grip to an increased risk of death from all causes. The average middle-age should generate about 50kg of force.
To test your grip, you will need to use a dynamometer, which you may find at your local gym or ask a personal trainer.
In 1970, 1000 milligrams a day of vitamin C was believed to protect you from colds. Numerous studies have surprisingly, found very little, to no link between vitamin C and illness prevention.
What does help? Friends. Researchers found that people with robust friendship circles tend to have less systemic inflammation. According to a Cornell University Study, the average person today, has two close friends. Aim to have 5 to see an uptick in Health. Everyone benefits from social interaction, and no, Facebook doesn’t count!
Your arteries don’t do well under pressure. They stiffen and plaque collects along the inner walls which puts undue strain on your heart. The magic number for blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg.
In a US study of people aged 50 and over with high blood pressure. Those who dropped their systolic BP below 120mmHG reduced their risk of death by 27%. So keep your Blood pressure down. No pressure.