Do you think you are healthy?
Can you prove that to yourself?
Can you measure whether changes to your lifestyle improve or degrade your health?
Doing so requires first establishing a health baseline, a quantified status of your physical, mental and emotional health.
“A health-care baseline is essentially where you are “at’ on the broad, complex spectrum of physical, mental and emotional health,” explains Mary James, MD, an internal medicine physician at Stanford. “This can be a critical starting point for achieving future health goals.”
Keep Health is mostly focused on physical health.
If you have concerns about your mental health baseline, you can use the self-assessment quizzes at Psycom. If you have concerns about your emotional health baseline, you can take the self-assessment emotional wellness test at 7Cups, an innovative on-demand emotional health service and online therapy provider.
To set your physical health baseline, there are different levels you can explore depending on your comfort.
At a Minimum
We recommend partnering with your primary care provider (PCP) to receive the standard medical tests in your annual physical. These should include blood work and physical exams including a skin exam from a specialist. Good PCP’s provide you with an online dashboard to see your results and track how they change from year to year. From what we’ve heard, less than 15% of the American population gets an annual physical. It’s hard to keep your health when you don’t know if you are healthy.
- Track the consistency and quality of your sleep. Without proper sleep, it is hard to focus and make good decisions in your life.
Lack of sleep increases impulsivity, hunger and cravings. Good options include:
- Determine your physical age using one of these biological age tests. (Free-$179)
- Measure your body fat percentage. Become the person you want to see in the mirror each morning. Focus on getting where you want to avoid these health risks. The Fitbit Aria Scale ($130) or the InBody Band 2 ($180) are good options. The Inbody Band 2 also tracks sleep.
- Test your home water supply ($25) and home air quality ($50-$400). Take action if it isn’t clean. Contact your local politicians, newspapers, water authority to try to get the people at the top to address the issues or if that doesn’t work, consider moving elsewhere.
- Determine your gut bacteria baseline with a quick home microbiome test. Your microbiome is critical to your health and thinking. Companies in this space include:
*For those interested in prebiotics and probiotics, check out Seed, one of the more interesting and innovative “synbiotic” companies.
Undergo comprehensive advanced body screening and analysis. Depending on the provider, these may include a whole body MRI, whole genome sequencing, coronary calcium scoring, body composition, core blood work labs and medical history. They check for heart disease, cancer, aneurysms and other chronic conditions.
- Human Longevity’s Health Nucleus program originally provided all of these for $25,000. In 2018, they reduced the cost to $5,000. They use the most advanced equipment during a 3-4 hour exam. The information gathered is kept private and you own it. They use your depersonalized data for their research study. They have a location in San Diego and are expanding nationally with recent partnerships in Los Angeles and Naples, Florida. You can choose to share selective data with your PCP as you like. Keep Health recommends them. For more, see our detailed review, Setting Your Health Baseline: The Human Longevity Institute Health Nucleus Experience.
- Alternatively, your PCP’s hospital likely provides executive physicals which cover some of these, but not the whole genome sequencing. Executive physicals can be covered by employers or paid for personally. The data will be part of your hospital records.
- Companies like InsideTracker provide an equivalent of executive physicals. Your results are private to you. You may share them with your PCP if you’d like.
- If you seek only cancer and major disease scanning, new companies like Ezra (NY, NJ, CA) and PreNuvo (Vancouver, Toronto, San Francisco–2H 2020) provide partial and full body MRI scans.
Do not sign up for 23andMe, Ancestry.com, FamilyTree, MyHeritage or any of the inexpensive direct to consumer DNA testing services. They effectively own your DNA data and you don’t want that. Current privacy laws do not protect you well enough.
What To Do Once You Have Your Health Baseline
Some components of your health baseline are more modifiable than others. Work with your PCP and health coach to improve those and undertake preventative measures to make sure any areas of weakness, such as coronary calcium, do not get worse. Keep Health’s newsletters will also provide guidance on emerging best practices.
Also, celebrate getting your health baseline established, by rewarding yourself with a great book to read. We highly recommend the New York Times Bestseller, I Contain Multitudes ($10). In this fascinating and humor-filled book, Ed Yong introduces our microbial partners and the front lines of discovery. It will change your view of nature and your sense within it.