Have you had your cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure monitored recently. If you haven’t you probably should. But are these indicators a true measure of the state of our health? Also, if these ‘health’ indicators are outside the ‘normal’ range, how are they adjusted?
Of course, the obvious answer is to increase your exercise and eat better. Your GP may suggest this. But if you have a blood test and return a reading of high cholesterol, in most cases, your GP will put you on statins (cholesterol lowering medication). Hands up, who had their statins this morning?
Now, statins have their role and by no means do I suggest stop taking them. But, let’s consider this.
A client of mine who is not overweight, rides her bike regularly, in fact rides 800km each year in a foreign country, has no other health concerns, returned a high cholesterol reading from a routine blood test earlier this year. She is 56 years old and is well educated and works full time.
Her GP put her on statins straight away. She told me this, I thought hmmm. Recent research now suggests that if you are over 50, have high cholesterol and no other elevated health conditions ie. high Blood Pressure, then you should not take statins. She took my advice on board and I armed her with a bunch of questions to ask her GP, including asking if she could get a calcium score. What is a calcium score you ask?
A calcium score is a number which indicates the buildup of calcium in the arteries of your heart. This calcium blocks the arteries and causes you to have a heart attack or stroke.
Her calcium score is 0. She has no blocked arteries in her heart or in her vessels leading to her brain. Evidently her doctor suggested she may want to take a natural cholesterol lowering agent instead.
Some people genetically have high cholesterol. Cholesterol in the body is important, it produces hormones, Vitamin D and aids in digestion. If you lower your cholesterol too much through the use of statins, these processes could be compromised, causing illness.
Consider this. There are 3 indicators that will enable you to live a longer healthier life. These are:
- Your aerobic fitness (Vo2 Max)
- Your Leg Strength
- The amount of lean muscle you have
How do you test these? Most Exercise Physiologists and Personal Trainers can measure the first 2, and a DEXA scan will measure the amount of lean muscle you have.
Start increasing these indicators over time through prescribed exercise. An increase in lean muscle will regulate your blood sugar (reverse your diabetes), the increase in in your aerobic fitness will improve your cardiovascular efficiency (regulate your blood pressure, limit cholesterol build up, and help with your mental health), and the increase in your leg strength will keep you mobile well into your late 80’s and 90’s.
A paradigm shift on what we should be testing for our health is what we need. Taking a pill, or having an injection to regulate your health should be your last option.
Granted, exercise means you have to do something. But don’t take the easy way out. Next time you see your GP ask if you can have your aerobic capacity, lean muscle and leg strength measured.