Health Metrics. A Detailed Understanding of Top 12.

Are we really looking at and measuring correct health metrics?

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]any of us say, “I wish I could get a good night’s sleep,” or “I know I should work on my stress levels,” but we don’t do anything about it, which is a bummer. We constantly attempt to understand the measures and outcomes of our health. However, when we begin working on them, we are more likely to see improvement if we have data to back us up. But the question arises, are we counting what counts? Metrics matter! Especially in this divine era. But do we know if these measurements are beneficial for us to know these numbers? This article is a go-to guide for all the health metrics to be followed for optimal health.

But What is Health? Because health can be regarded in so many different ways, there isn’t a universal answer to this question. Athletes’ health may be more closely linked to their physical fitness and strength. For people who work full-time, maintaining good health may entail balancing their work-life balance with caring for their families and controlling their energy and stress levels.  Health is a condition of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. 

A health metric measures the factors, determinants, conditions, or outcomes that influence a person’s health.

People’s general health and life expectancy, as well as sickness, fitness, and ability (including mental/physical capability and physical impairment), are all factors that may be considered. They can treat acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term or recurring) diseases such as depression or persistent back pain. You can learn much about your body’s nutritional needs and metabolic rate by undergoing regular lab testing and physical examinations. Learn more about what to anticipate in this article here.

Top 10 Health Metrics

Several of these assessments are free of charge. With today’s technological advancements, monitoring our health metrics and taking better care of ourselves is more manageable. Health metrics you can track to help you get healthier.

1. Blood Pressure.

In order to preserve your general health, you need to pay close attention to and control your blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood against the artery walls as it circulates throughout the body. It is also referred to as the silent killer. People with high blood pressure exert more force on their arterial walls than is necessary. Heart attacks, heart disease, kidney problems, and strokes are all possible outcomes while you’re under this additional stress. 

How to Measure: Blood pressure can be easily monitored at home (although it could be good idea to buy one) or in the doctor’s office with blood pressure monitor. If you do not have an upcoming appointment, several retail pharmacies provide free use of their machines. 

Your reading will give you two numbers: systolic pressure above and diastolic pressure on the bottom. Systolic pressure is when your heart contracts and pumps blood, while diastolic pressure is when it relaxes and fills. Systolic blood pressure should be less than 120 and diastolic less than 80. But having a normal diastolic and high systolic puts you in danger.

2. Resting Heart rate. 
Your pulse, which measures your heart rate, is a good sign of your general health and fitness. Monitoring your average heart rate can provide tangible signs of your overall health. Stress, lack of exercise, and a lack of sleep can all raise your resting heart rate. If you don’t have time to visit the doctor for a blood pressure check, your resting heart rate may indicate whether or not your blood pressure is too high.
According to a study of data from the World Health Organization, higher resting heart rates are substantially associated with high blood pressure and, in fact, sudden cardiac death. If your heart rate is over the typical range for your age, you may have a medical issue or need to change your lifestyle choices.
How to Measure: You can simply monitor your heart rate with smartwatches and other fitness tracking gadgets, but it is also simple to manually check your heart rate. Palpate the right side of your neck, the inside of your wrist, or the bottom of your foot to locate your pulse and set a 60-second timer to measure heartbeats accurately. The suggestion is to measure this before getting out of bed in the morning. 
Depending on age, the average heart rate varies. According to the National Institutes of Health, the average heart rate by age is listed below.
Newborns ages 0 to 1 month 70 to 190 bpm
Infants 1 to 11 months old 80 to 160 bpm
1 to 2 years old 80 to 130 bpm
3 to 4 years old 80 to 120 bpm
5 to 6 years old 75 to 115 bpm
7 to 9 years old 70 to 110 bpm
10 years and older and adults (including seniors) 60 to 100 bpm
Athletes in top condition 40 to 60 bpm

The average resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute, but it might be considerably lower if you’re in excellent physical condition. Knowing your regular “maximum” heart rate during strenuous activity and your age-appropriate “target” heart rate is also essential. Subtract your age from 220 to discover your usual maximal heart rate.

2. Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

Heart rate variability (HRV) refers to the variation in the time between heartbeats. It’s usually constant but also varies depending on your current activity. When you’re relaxed, your heart rate drops (parasympathetic or “rest and digest”) but rises when you’re busy, nervous, or in danger (sympathetic or “fight or flight”). Heart rate variability reflects bodily responsiveness. If your heart rate is very flexible, this indicates that your body can adjust to a variety of situations. People with a high HRV tend to be less anxious and cheerful. They can suggest existing or future health difficulties, such as cardiac ailments and mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.

As you age, your heart rate variability often decreases as well.  Even if it doesn’t sound significant, it may be an essential health metric if you know where to look for it.

How to Measure:  HRV as health metricThese variations are only observable with specialist sensors, but affordable non-medical gadgets that measure heart rate variability are now available.

An EKG is used to assess heart rate variability in a hospital setting. This gadget accurately detects cardiac electrical activity using chest-mounted sensors. Healthcare practitioners might also send you home with a continuous heart rate monitor on your wrist.  HRV varies by age and by the individual. Therefore, observing your patterns and changes over time is preferable to comparing yourself to others. Here is a typical change observed in a study.

Adults’ HRV ranges from 20 milliseconds to over 200 milliseconds. Utilizing wearable that detects your HRV in controlled context, such as sleep, and establishing baseline over few weeks is the best approach to discovering your usual level.

3. Breathing Rate (RR).

Another useful health metric is measuring your breathing rate, which is the number of breaths you take each minute. As the body tries to maintain oxygen supply to the tissues, a shift in RR is frequently the first indicator of deterioration. As the Omicron strain of COVID-19 has just gone viral, respiratory rate is an essential and crucial health metric to remember.

How to Measure: It is simple to determine your respiratory rate, count the number of breaths you take every minute. Or it can also be measured with the help of fitness trackers and are almost accurate in reading.

During rest, most healthy individuals’ average number of breaths per minute ranges between 12 and 20. However, the breathing rate varies with age, and the following chart depicts the changes according to age.

breathing rate as health metric

Several other conditions affect a person’s breathing rate. Anxiety and panic episodes can cause shallow breathing and a rapid heart rate.

4. Maximum Oxygen Uptake (VO2 Max)

It is the maximum quantity of oxygen an individual consumes during intense physical exercise. This measurement, usually their VO2 max, is a crucial predictor. It is a typical measurement to determine an athlete’s aerobic endurance before or during training.

How to Measure: VO2 max tests are often completed in a laboratory or hospital by a physician, cardiologist, or fitness professional. VO2 max depends on age, gender, physical fitness, and altitude factors. health metric of Vo2 max

There is no single “ideal” VO2 max that everyone should strive for. Typically, a person’s VO2max decreases with age. Typically, VO2max reaches its peak in the 20s, and in the 30s, it begins to fall by around 10% every decade.

5. Oxygen Saturation (spO2).

The amount of oxygen transported by red blood cells throughout the body is measured by the blood oxygen level. The body constantly monitors blood oxygen levels to ensure that every cell receives the oxygen needed to operate correctly. We monitor our blood oxygen levels to verify that everything is functioning.

Most people do not need to monitor their blood oxygen saturation, but those with health conditions that result in low oxygen saturation should. Millimeters of mercury, or mm Hg, express this data.

How to Measure: Blood oxygen levels may be determined in two ways: either by drawing blood from a vein (typically in the wrist or earlobe) or by using a pulse oximeter. But now, with the advancement in technology, finger pulse oximeters or wearable gadgets can measure blood oxygen levels too. The latter is a noninvasive method for measuring the oxygen transported by red blood cells.

When using a pulse oximeter, people with healthy lungs should have an oxygen level of between 80- and 100 mm Hg, or between 95 and 100 %. Low oxygen levels (less than 92%) are a medical emergency.

6. Body Fat Composition.

One of the essential health metrics is Body Fat Percentage because excess body fat can cause various health problems. You will likely have your height and weight measured by a medical professional at least once a year, along with your BMI. A real body composition examination offers data for subcutaneous fat, visceral fat, water mass, bone mass, lean muscle mass, and fat mass and lean mass.

How to Measure: Body fat percentage is determined by measuring the thickness of the subcutaneous fat layer at six points on the body. Using the data, body fat percentage is calculated. Bioelectrical impedance analysis, underwater weighing, and DEXA scanning are all methods for detecting body fat percentages.

A healthy body fat percentage ranges from 10% to 35% for males and 20% to 30% for women, depending on the gender and age of the individual. High body fat can cause heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. If your Body Fat Percentage is beyond the healthy range, you may want to work with your doctor to make dietary and activity modifications.

body fat chart for womenbody fat chart for men

7. Waist Circumference/ Waist to Hip Ratio.

The ratio of your waist circumference to your hip circumference is recognized as a significant health metric for obesity-related diseases. The greater the amount of fat carried around the waist (apple-shaped as opposed to pear-shaped), the greater the risk of heart disease. Learn more about body shapes and their effect on health in this article here.

How to Measure: A stretch-resistant measuring tape is recommended by the World Health Organization for taking these measures. The waist is measured halfway between the last rib and the top of the pelvis. The hip circumference is measured with measuring tape parallel to the floor at the broadest point of the buttocks. Then the first is divided into the second.

Following the World Health Organization, women with a ratio greater than 0.85 and males greater than 0.90 are at significantly elevated risk for obesity-related diseases, such as metabolic and heart disease. A 2011 study revealed a low-processed diet might reduce your waist-to-hip ratio thus, eating healthier may be beneficial.

As we become older, our waistlines and waist-to-hip ratios get wider. Following data was observed with aging.

wasit to hip ratio as health metric
Waist hip ratio distributed by age and sex
8. Skin & Body Temperature.

Skin and body temperature are also essential considerations when talking about health metrics. We typically imply core body temperature when we talk about body temperature (the inside of the head, chest, and abdominal cavity). The changes in this kind of temperature are related to underlying conditions such as inflammation, fever, etc.

There is also the surface temperature, sometimes known as the skin temperature. This is measured on the skin’s surface and results from the ambient temperature and the body’s internal temperature. It shields the body from the sun’s rays and plays a crucial function in thermoregulation, maintaining the average body temperature (about 37 °C). Unlike the body’s core temperature, the body’s surface temperature can thus change significantly.

How to Measure: Wearables are an excellent way for temperature monitoring. Many fitness bands that monitor many parameters may also monitor the temperature. Also, the traditional and more accurate way is via skin and body thermometer we all have in our homes.

Due to the combination of heat synthesis, absorption, and heat escape, the human core body temperature remains generally constant (about 36.5 °C– 37.4 °C).  Normal body temperature does not vary much with age.

8. Water Intake.

Tracking your heart rate, calories, and steps is what most people focus on. However, they overlook one important health metric: the amount of water one consumes. Drinking water is beneficial. In addition to aiding the absorption of nutrients, proper hydration can also improve energy levels.

There are several health benefits to keeping a regular record of your urine output. Pay attention to the color of your urine and the number of times you go to the bathroom daily.

How to Measure: There are several ways to track how much water you’re drinking. Monitor each of the above for a long time to get an idea of what’s “normal” for your body. Again, a fitness tracker or smartphone may be used to remind you to drink enough water.

The “objective” is to have urine that is pale yellow or lighter; anything darker is an indication that you are not drinking enough water. You should keep in mind that your pee is darker in the morning. Learn more from this here.

9. Daily Movement.

Did you know that compared to people who sit for less than three hours a day, those who sit for more than six hours a day had an 18% increased risk of death from obesity, diabetes, and heart disease? The human body was designed to move a lot. Getting up and moving about during the day may significantly impact your overall health.

For this health metric, two things can be considered in mind. First is the amounts of steps. But more realistic health statistics may be minutes moving rather than steps taken because being active has been shown to reduce death rates. A 2019 study of over 17,000 women average of 72 years old, indicated that the health benefits of greater exercise dropped off after 7,500 steps for this group. Because it’s gentler on the joints, walking is often considered a low-impact exercise.

“Minutes moving” is a better health statistic than step count.

It is recommended that we engage in 150 to 300 minutes of moderate or intense physical exercise each week by the World Health Organization.

How To Measure: This feature is often included with most new cellphones for both steps and moving. Smartphones and wearables like fitness trackers can now monitor our daily activity and help us establish goals and reminders to enhance our lives.

10. Blood Sugar Levels

Blood sugar is the number of glucose levels in the blood at present. People with prediabetes or diabetes lack insulin, so they test their blood sugar often to identify abrupt spikes or decreases. Nondiabetic hypoglycemics and hyperglycemic check their blood glucose since they may acquire diabetes if they don’t. In addition to diabetes, elevated blood sugar can result in heart disease, nerve damage, renal difficulties, and visual problems. Slightly low blood sugar may necessitate eating more or at least better, more balanced diet rich in a range of nutritious foods from different food categories.

How to Measure: A simple blood test under fasting conditions of more than 8 hours is done to determine blood glucose levels. Typical results are less than 100md/dL.  According to the CDC, readings above 100 mg/dL indicate pre-diabetes or diabetes.

health metric,women%200.167%20mmol%2FL).

Several factors affect glucose levels; one of them is aging. It has been proven that there is a rise in 2-hour plasma glucose levels of 0.263 mmol/L. According to the AHA, those with normal glucose levels should be evaluated every three years. However, overweight or specific diabetes risk factors may need to be tested more frequently.

11. Calories Intake

Another essential health metric is calorie intake. Tracking calorie consumption regularly has proven to be an effective weight loss strategy. It has a massive role in our lives and health; thus, this is a way that may help you enhance your health.

How to Measure: Using a food journal and manually calculating your total daily calorie intake was the traditional method for keeping track of your calorie consumption. Downloading an app on your smartphone that can perform all of the math for you is a much simpler choice. You can also connect some applications to your fitness tracker and alter your calorie intake based on your daily physical activity statistics. Calories can also be monitored with the average number of servings of processed foods and high-glycemic meals and the number of servings of fruits and vegetables.

12. Sleep Quality

How frequently do you wake up feeling foggy in the morning? Do you resent those who awaken feeling vibrant and healthy?  That is why sleep quality is a well-known indicator of wellness and is on the list of health metrics. More recent studies show a connection between insufficient sleep and cardiovascular disease. In a study, loss of sleep was found to enhance the risk of heart attack and stroke by the same percentage as smoking. According to researchers, as little as one night of sleeplessness can reduce your physical endurance, affecting your attitude, energy levels, and willingness to get out of bed and enjoy life.

How to Measure: Sleep studies and tools like the Pittsburgh Quality Sleep Index allow professionals to measure sleep quality. PSQI is a series of questions used in both clinical and research contexts to assess sleep-related behaviors. At home, sleep can be measured with the help of smartwatches, besides devices and gadgets that can be placed beneath your sheets or mattress. These can measure sleep quality, including deep restorative sleep, and help improve sleep. This data can be seen via smartphones.

As we age, our ability to sleep well diminishes. Having so many overnight awakenings, the sleep of the elderly tends to be more fragmented and less peaceful than that of younger individuals, according to many studies.

sleep quality declining with aging

Here is a small list sorted out in a summary with which health metric to track.

Experiencing slumps in your activity Track sleep quality. 
Experiencing emotional/ physical stress Track heart rate variability. 
Want to improve your body composition Track fat percentage/ waist circumference. 
Improve long-term health.  Track vegetable intake. 
Spending too much time sitting/being lazy Track steps and physical activity.
Improve focus Track social media usage.
Prevent diabetes and other chronic conditions Track sugar levels.

It may seem like a lot to keep track of, but the best way to guarantee that you are doing everything you can to boost your overall health is to take a holistic and personalized approach. This list of all these health metrics is an excellent starting point, but you may find that you need to add or subtract other indicators based on your circumstances. Preserving your health and avoiding illness might be easier if you monitor these health metrics. You will be able to notice modifications in your health that can assist the doctor in diagnosing what caused the unfavorable changes if needed.

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Dr Aimen

Being a Doctor by profession, Aimen is passionate about helping people get better health in their lives. Aimen enjoys her research on Prime With Time subjects and strives to create better awareness of the problems and changes related to women's health.

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