Using InsideTracker tests to improve overall health
By Henry Howard
At the start of a new year, it’s common to assess our health, fitness and other areas for potential improvement. For me, it also was time for an updated InsideTracker test — a scientific way to truly understand my health.
The most recent results show a slight dip as compared with my two previous tests, which were my best to date. Thankfully, InsideTracker not only assesses dozens of key biomarkers but it also provides personalized recommendations to improve areas that are rated “at risk” and even “needs improvement.”
I would encourage all of my runner friends, weekend warriors of all types and really anyone who wants to better understand their health to consider an InsideTracker test to get a better assessment of their health. I continue to use InsideTracker recommendations to improve several key areas such as vitamin D.
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My key takeaways
Of the 43 biomarkers tested during my Dec. 27 blood draw, five were deemed at-risk, while nine were declared to be needing improvement. The remainder were in the optimized area. As compared with the previous two tests, Sept. 13 and June 28, I have two more biomarkers in the at-risk area. Those are related to stress: cortisol and free testosterone.
Both of those biomarkers have a history of being on the border between at risk and needs improvement. And that is part of what I really like about InsideTracker tests: Over time, the results show trends that you can use to help navigate your own path to better health.
For me, the results are not alarming, just a useful reminder that my life stresses — which were elevated during this time period — do play an important factor in my health.
After analyzing the data, here are some additional key takeaways:
1. Inflammation group: My score has been unchanged in the past several tests since falling off a cliff after the June 2020 reading. This is due to a low white blood cell count. My WBC score fell again, down to 3.2, compared with 3.5 on the previous two tests. White blood cells are the driving force behind a healthy immune system. A lot of the recommended foods to improve this category are staples in my diet. Those include almond butter, nuts, quinoa, avocados and chia seeds. It’s worth noting and seeking to improve.
2. Cortisol level (adjacent graph): This indicates stress related to intense and/or prolonged training, as well as stressors related to life and work. After two decent scores in my previous two tests, my reading dramatically increased to 24 from 21.9 and 16.8. The optimal range is 4 to 15.7 while the threshold being at-risk starts at 22. It’s no surprise that my stress level has increased in the past two years, given not only the ongoing pandemic but the added responsibilities associated with my dad’s decline due to dementia.
3. Vitamin B12 level: Two of my previous three tests have shown my two lowest scores of the nearly 20 tests I’ve taken. As a plant-based athlete, it’s challenging to get enough vitamin b12. After my previous analysis, I started drinking a different, healthier plant-based milk which has a reduced sugar content. While that has likely been a better choice it did not influence my low Vitamin B12 score. Since this area is still a concern, I have begun to take a vitamin B12 supplement. In the past, I took a multivitamin with vitamin B12. However, this reading and recommendation indicate now is the time to increase my dosage to 500 mcg per day.
4. Magnesium: This is another success that has continued. After my test from six months ago, I took one of the key InsideTracker food recommendations (amaranth) and began having a cereal most mornings with this ingredient. Since that transition my magnesium level has improved from deep in the at risk category to perfectly embedded in the good category.
After each InsideTracker test, I review the score, analysis and recommendations, and create a to-do plan for myself. Looking ahead, here are some areas that I will look to improve upon.
• Vitamin b12. Vegans and vegetarians face the challenge of getting adequate vitamin B12 in their diet. As mentioned above, I have just begun supplementing with this important vitamin. The next test should yield some interesting data.
• Yoga. I’ve said in the past I need to incorporate yoga into my rest and recovery days but have yet to be consistent with it. Mondays are typically my rest and recovery day, perfect for a yoga session. Just like any habit, I need to start and build it in as an expectation.
• White blood cells. After my previous test, I noted an upcoming visit with my doctor. We did talk about my white blood cell count, as recommended by InsideTracker, and he did not seem concerned but I’ll keep him informed as I have additional tests in the coming months.
Overall, I feel good once again about my health and fitness. My challenge is to better address life stresses, as they seem to be the major contributing factor to my highest priority categories that need improvement.
And it’s reassuring to know that my body has recovered from the training and running of my 100-miler last fall. Now I am starting to gear up for a 100K race in April 2022, twice deferred due to the pandemic. With the knowledge I have gleaned again from InsideTracker, I feel good about my health and fitness, and look forward to training, racing and recovering (with yoga, as I need to remind myself).