Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Personal Physiology Results

Earlier this week, I obtained some personal physiology results: basic blood tests and a DEXA body composition scan.

I have these results by stroke of fortune and opportunity: not because I have an excess of money and an obsession to move higher in the ectomorphic pantheon of unpaid ultramarathon running; rather I was paid for these results as part of an ongoing research study (more on that when I can discuss more about it).

These test were at the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver, where I am fortunate to be employed in a research fellowship. Lately I have had more time to wander the hallways of the hospital, both as part of my own budding research as well as this study, and I am even more impressed with the highly-talented and motivated staff who are both enthusiastic and willing to discuss research and share data with me. Along those lines, I am making these raw data public for anyone else that might be interested, as I am a physiologic data geek.


Personal observations:
- My blood pressure (not shown) is, again, prehypertensive (13x/9x). I will again monitor this, as it has been slightly high in the past. Exercise is known to reduce blood pressure, but a physician yesterday told me that this effect lasts only up to 18 hours, which could have affected my results. This may well also be an inherited salt-sensitivy. I cook most of my own food and use salt sparingly, having to intercept fresh food before liberal salt is dumped on by my wife and others, but I can be more diligent about that. I love bananas already, but can investigate how to add more potassium to my diet.
And as much as it pains me to say it -- I may have to rethink cheese.
- BMI of 19.8
- Body comp through DEXA shows 9.8% body fat, about 1% higher than the last time I had it measured with calipers (for free at work, and I was probably the same BMI). DEXA is more accurate. Interesting assymetries which I'm curious to learn more about.
- Hemoglobin is on the low end. This can happen during intense training. I try to be mindful of my Iron intake since I don't eat red meat, but I can easily add more spinach and kale.
- I can gain or lose weight and still be perfectly healthy, but I'm comfortable at this weight (have been for 3-4 years) and feel healthy (get sick 0-1 times per year, never get headaches or have to take any sort of drugs). Awkwardly, a few acquaintances make weird comments occasionally about (me) being skinny, although I think very little about my own weight, much less theirs.
- Very happy with my cholesterol: HDL is nearly equal to my LDL, which seems to be an off-the-charts ratio. In 9th grade, I was diagnosed with high cholesterol!


  1. a) Does hypertension run in your family -- parents, grandparents -- ?

    b) Hope you have a FEW hobbies. Sounds like you have DECADES ahead of you :-)

  2. Grandpa Al did, and was told to restrict his salt, but that was the old-school days when it was prescribed for everyone. Not everyone is salt-sensitive, but my casual observations (we had a blood-pressure cuff at HP) was that I could lower my BP if I really watched it.

    Decades, yes, but going for quality over quantity! *Real* longevity is from doing and eating very little -- very little stress on the body. No thanks!

  3. Have you tried taking your own BP when you might be a bit more relaxed?

  4. I use to have access to a BP machine at work. I tried to keep it consistent by measuring in the afternoon, but it may have been slightly affected by that day's activity. I did get it down to a completely normal reading for a bit after really focusing on salt, but otherwise it was consistently a tad high.

    There is other research saying that 'prehypertensive' doesn't lead to anything worse.

  5. I was noted as prehypertension as a recent work related physical. However, when I have checked my BP in several other settings ... it is normal. I am not clear how much variance there can be from reading to reading based on diet (salt) and stress.

  6. Even if it isn't Mike's situation, the phenomenon is pretty well documented:

  7. Mike - What GZ said. As I think I told him, I bought a home BP monitor and found my pressure is reliably 110-115 at home, whereas it's 125-130 at the doc's.

    As far as sodium goes, I wonder if that's really a factor for someone who will lose a lot through sweating. At least that's what I tell myself.

  8. Thanks guys, I thought I've controlled for this effect when I used to measure it at HP. I would even focus on calming my HR down before taking the measurement, especially if I had just gone for a run at lunch or something. I was surprised to find it lower after running occasionally, but that makes sense if exercise only has a temporary protective effect (which would add up over time).

    Otherwise, Jeff, you're right about the salt thing being tricky, as I just came home with the classic pattern of salt crystals all over my shorts!

    I'm not as interested in analyzing myself to death, but I do think/wonder if the dynamics of blood pressure are different for endurance folks (versus normals versus power/strength athletes).

  9. A number of years ago, I got surprised at having borderline high blood pressure. It wasn't affected by sodium (thank goodness). I went on the DASH diet and my blood pressure went down to 106/64 from 122/81. Then, when crewing at Leadville and not taking any fluids, I hit 74/47, so it can drop precipitously when running sometimes. When getting measured, it's important to sit for a full five minutes before the reading; my readings drop minute by minute as I relax.

  10. Visiting the in laws at 10k feet and I took my blood pressure (they have one of those digital cuffs). Prior to dinner it was 114/65, post dinner it was 132/78.

    It was a good dinner. Pulse was 48 pre dinner and 72 post.

    I was evaluated as pre hypertension for a work physical (one in which I had to fast the night, AM before). It was something like 12high over 80 or something.

    ... whatever.

  11. Yeah, I don't know what to make of all this, thanks for the data though guys.
    @SteveQ, doesn't the lowering after DASH suggest that there was some salt sensitivity?
    I know you cook, so you've probably got a good sense of what you're doing.
    I guess it's nice to have a "reserve" for Leadville, though, huh?!

    @GZ: *Never* pass up an opportunity to use the phrase post-prandial! =) My last test was also fasting, though I wasn't (and rarely ever am) decaffeinated -- which is something else to consider. I agree that we're all probably just fine, though!
    And...I would love to have in-laws at 10k feet!