Sunday, August 06, 2006

Pre Paleo checkup

In this post I'll talk about some of the medical tests you should get done before starting to follow a Palaeolithic Nutrition Plan for the rest of your life.

The tests you do are important for several reasons.
  • They will give you a baseline to work from.
  • They will point out any problem areas that you may specifically need to target.
  • They will (hopefully) be some sort of proof to your doctor that natural food and vitamin supplementation is a better cure for modern diseases than prescription drugs.

  • We'll start with easy tests you can do at home.

    Test 1. Weight.
    Weigh yourself. Although you are not interested in weight loss, you are interested in fat loss, knowing your weigh helps in calculating your BMI and it also provides a motivational tool later in your new way of life as you see kilos (or pounds) come off.

    Test 2. Height.
    This is mainly needed to assist in calculating your BMI.

    Test 3. BMI.
    The Body Mass Index test is the simplest to do and it can be done at home if you like. I use this online one. Choose Metric or "standard".

    Test 4.
    Take measurements (as accurately as possible) of the following areas on your body:
  • Around your chest
  • Around your waist
  • Around your hips
  • Around a thigh
  • Around a humerous (upper arm)

  • That's about the extent of the "home" tests you can do (without spending money on various home test kits). In Australia, you can go to your GP (preferably a "bulk billing" one so it's free) and get a referral for pathology work. The following pathology tests should be done.

    Test 5.
    Body fat percentage. This is basically a "skin fold test" done with a pair of callipers at selected points on the body. These are done on the tricep, (midway between the shoulder and the tip of the elbow on the back of the upper arm) sub scapula, (diagonal fold across the back, just below the shoulder blade) bicep (halfway between the elbow and top of the shoulder on the front of the upper arm) and suprailiac (diagonal fold following the natural line of the iliac crest, just above the hip bone). An alternative is the Yuhasz Skin fold Test which uses six points. The four results are taken in millimetres then averaged. The result is put into a calculator like this one.

    Alternatively, you can visit a practitioner that uses Bioimpedance technology in their clinic. This is the most accurate and quickest test available to patients. It takes about 30 seconds to do the test. This will not only accurately measure your fat mass and percentage, it will also measure your muscle mass and other important biological markers.

    Test 6.
    A Blood Lipid profile. This will include HDL, LDL and Serum (total) cholesterol levels. Make sure you let your Doctor know that you want all three readings.

    Test 7.
    Triglycerides. This substance is a fat that is carried in your blood stream. This test will be done at the same time as your Cholesterol test.

    Test 8.
    Blood Pressure. Your GP should be able to do this test him/her self.

    Test 9.
    Fasting glucose. Performed first thing in the morning is easiest as you have to do with out food or drink for eight to ten hours before the test.

    Test 10.
    OGTT (Oral Glucose Tolerance Test) An OGTT is a series of blood glucose tests. A fasting glucose and insulin level is measured, (Test 9) then you drink a standard amount of a glucose solution to "challenge" your system. This is followed by one or more additional glucose and insulin tests performed at specific intervals to track their levels over time.

    Test 11.
    Homocysteine. This is one of the primary clinical indicators of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). Again, this will be done at the same time as your cholesterol and triglyceride tests.

    Test 12.
    TSH. (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) This test will check for hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism symptoms can include fatigue and low energy levels, depression, unexplained weight gain and intolerance to cold temperatures amongst others. Make sure you are very clear to your GP that you also want "free" T3 (tri-iodothyronine) and "free" T4 (thyroxine) levels checked. This has nothing to do with the price! The "free" T3 and T4 levels will indicate how "active" they are. Just a serum or total level will not be the accurate reading you require.

    Finally, record your age, sex, any prescription drugs you take, any supplements you take, the date of these tests and the date you started eating like a caveman (or woman). As you progress through the next few months, keep a diary about any problems you come across or how you feel. The information that you collect can be very important to your Health care professional so the more you collect the better.

    For the pathology tests, you should schedule a series of follow up tests at the six month and twelve month mark. After that once per year is fine to make sure you keep all your results in the "good" range. The home tests mentioned above can be done on a weekly basis. Make sure you record all results.


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