I already self-track numerous metrics, such as weight, body fat %, cholesterol, sleep, stress, and happiness. However, the Life Extension Conference helped me realize that there are far more things that I should track. Here's why:
- You might discover that you are abnormally low or high in a particular metric, and this knowledge will allow you to quickly and cheaply take corrective action that will improve your quality of life or prevent you from developing a disease.
- Although it is useful to know how well you stand relative to the rest of the people your age and gender, knowing how you are doing relative to a past version of yourself is also very helpful as it can indicate some physiological change that has taken place. For example, the PSA test, which tests for evidence of prostate cancer, is notoriously inaccurate, but it has been found that a significant increase in PSA over time is much more predictive.
- Frequently collecting data on a particular metric allows you to do self-experimentation to see what affects that particular metric. The more frequent the testing, the more we are able to learn about ourselves. The self-experimentation approach is especially good when trying to deal with diffuse conditions that have a range of possible causes, such as insomnia, allergies, anxiety, and depression.
So what is worth tracking? Here's my first cut at things I might want to check periodically:Physical performance:
- One of the biggest indicators of cardiovascular health is something called VO2Max
, which is the maximum rate of uptake of oxygen by your lungs. Actual VO2Max testing requires a doctor and lots of specialized equipment. However, there is a way of indirectly testing VO2Max that's very simple, very accurate, and just about free. It's called a beep test or shuttle run
, depending on which side of the Atlantic you grew up on. You basically run between two cones 20m apart at a particular rate, and the rate gradually increases until you can't make it in time.
- I'm tempted to measure my performance on a particularly hard song on Dance Dance Revolution, but perhaps something simple, boring, and technology-free like the Hexagon Drill would be better, especially if I want to be able to do the same test in 20 years.
Strength & Power:
- Max # of pull ups. (In high school I could do 1-3, now I can do 12-14. :-) )
- Max bench press for some # of repetitions.
- Standing long jump
- Standing vertical jump
- I could do the sit & reach... (ah, memories of high school)
- This site
also recommends a trunk rotation test and groin flexibility testPhysical health:
- Body composition (body fat %, water %, total weight). My current scale has decent but probably somewhat inaccurate measurement of this.
- Glucose levels fasting and after eating a high-carb meal. This is easy to measure.
- Sleep quality (sleep latency, time in each sleep stage etc. Technologies like Zeo and FitBit allow for some measure of this.
I can also order specific tests for levels of various minerals, fats, and other components. While these tests are somewhat expensive, I really can get by doing them every 1-5 years, with possibly more frequent tests around things I'm trying to change. The way my health insurance works (high deductible, low monthly premiums) I would order these tests myself from sites like directlabs.com
(their testing and supplements business is way more respected than their monthly magazine). [LOTS OF RESEARCH CONDENSED INTO A GOOGLE DOC]
The above table, and the decisions of what to take, took a couple of hours of research. Doing all the tests I want to do will take about $500, and I estimate that I'll spend a fraction of that each subsequent year. I'm still not sure about the food antibody IgG vs IgE tests -- I have heard that some of them are highly inaccurate. Mental performance:
This is a tricky one. There are so many possible things to measure, some of which are extremely difficult to quantify repeatably. In addition, while I like the automatic data gathering of computer software, anything I use has to still be available in 20 years so that I have consistent methods of measurement.
I could use a brain training suite not to train my brain (only a subset of the tests appear to generalize to other situations) but to periodically test it. The best brain software appears to be the web-hosted lumosity.com
, but I'm worried that the tests may change over time (the site brags that they're making changes and improvements *all the time*). In addition, the service costs around $80 a year, which is a lot if I only use it a couple of times a year to assess mental performance. I started looking for desktop software and quickly realized that the low/mid end desktop software market died several years ago. There's very little, and most of it is crap. One alternative would be to get iphone/ipad software. (I'm imagining myself 20 years from now, turning on some ancient hardware to run some games.) However, getting access to the performance data will be an issue.
In terms of specific things to test, it would be interesting to cover:
- Working memory
- VIsual attention and tracking
- Ability to focus with distractions
- Visual/Spatial processing
- Audio processing
- Mental flexibility (Boggle?)
- Face recognition (lots of these exist
* Idea generation / creativity (Ability to plan and prioritize short and long term goals simultaneously)
* Self-awareness of emotional states
* Emotional processing
* Recognition of social cues
* Reading comprehension
* Performance under stress
The eight starred items do not appear to be easily testable in an automated way with the software I've found. There are a couple of ways of measuring willpower, such as resisting a particular temptation or enduring a painful but harmless sensation.
Any suggestions on brain testing technique (or any of the things I'm considering, for that matter) are highly appreciated.
Also, if you're interested in doing a testing/discussion group with me (these things are more fun with friends anyway), let me know.