What to measure? We have begun conducting “4Leaf Challenges” for clients such as businesses, clubs or churches. The challenge consists of a group of ten participants who agree to eat at the 4Leaf level (over 80% of their daily calories from whole plant-based foods) and to refrain from all animal products during that period. In this post, we’ll talk about the three indicators that we like to measure — in addition to the body weight a.ka. BMI (body mass index).
But first, a holiday note re alcohol abuse. This is a word to the wise for all my friends, subscribers and readers. I would like to share an experience with you, it has to do with drinking and driving.
As you know, many people have had brushes with the authorities over the years. The other night, I was out for dinner with a few friends. After being a bit “over-served,” and knowing full well that I was under the influence, I did something I’ve never done before. Believe it or not, I took a bus home.
Yes, a bus. I arrived home safely and without incident. This was really a surprise to me since I had never driven a bus before.
Hopefully, you recognized the above as a modest attempt at a little holiday levity on my part; now for the serious stuff. We talk a great deal about “vibrant health” being the ultimate goal of any permanent dietary lifestyle change. And we always stress that weight-loss is merely a fringe benefit of vibrant health. As such, we like to measure four indicators that together, paint a pretty good picture of vibrant health. They are:
1. Total cholesterol: Here we are looking for a number well below 200, preferably below 150. Not a single person in the massive Framingham study, with total cholesterol under 150, has ever died of a heart attack. The Mayo Clinic says below 200 is best, 200 to 239 is borderline high and 240 and over is HIGH. Dr. Esselstyn likes to see all of his patients below 150. On Christmas Day, my son Jason tested at 120 and I tested at 160 (using the FirstCheck Home test kit). It was pretty easy and yielded the scores that we expected, based on past tests by professionals. (See Dr. Greger one-minute video below on this topic)
2. Blood pressure. A simple measurement that anyone can learn to take. 120 over 80 is considered normal, although the normal for athletes and children is lower. 140/90 is Stage 1 high blood pressure with Stage 4 high blood pressure beginning at 210/120. Click here for source of this information.
3. A1C for Type 2 Diabetes. According to the Bayer A1CNow SelfCheck that I used, any reading under 6 is considered non-diabetic. According to the Mayo Clinic website, any reading between 5.7 and 6.4 is considered pre-diabetic. According the 2011 ADA National Fact Sheet, almost 26 million Americans were diagnosed with diabetes. Another 7 million have the disease but are undiagnosed. Alarmingly, a staggering 79 million are pre-diabetic — knocking at the door of this deadly disease. On 12-26-11, I tested safely below the pre-diabetic range using the Bayer home test kit shown here
4. Body Mass Index (BMI). Normal is 18.5 to 25. Overweight is 25 to 30. Obese is over 30. After eating at the 4Leaf level for a year or more, most people will enjoy a BMI in the low 20’s. It’s easy to check your BMI in the bottom right corner of the nutritiondata.com website, where it says daily needs calculator. You fill in your height, weight, age and activity level (from sedentary to very active). It then calculates your BMI and the number of calories you need to support that weight and activity level. At 6’0″ and 155 lb., my BMI is 21.0 and I need 2371 calories as a moderately active person. If you go on the 4Leaf program and have a lot of weight to lose, you will naturally consume less calories than you need to support your current weight. But when you eat 4Leaf, it’s difficult to consume too many calories; you fill up long before you do — unless you’re loading up on high fat plants like olives, nuts and avocados.
Sadly, many people with a normal BMI can have high cholesterol, have high blood pressure and can be an undiagnosed diabetic. Skinny people get heart disease and cancer all the time; so we want you to focus on being healthy. Whenever we oversee a 4Leaf Challenge in an organization like a school, club or business; we recommend that all four of the above measurements be recorded by a medical professional at the beginning and end of the formal challenge period.
If funds are not available for professional medical services, another alternative for the two blood tests are home test kits. We have used the FirstCheck Cholesterol kit and the Bayer A1CNow SelfCheck for diabetes. Each runs from $10 to $20 per person — for two tests each (depending on quantity ordered)
If our client chooses some or all of the above four indicators to measure, we will compute an average improvement by individual AND for the group total. Individual numbers will be kept confidential and only given to each person privately. The exciting part of a large 4Leaf Group Challenge is that the entire group of twenty people may achieve an aggregate set of results that looks something like these hypothetical numbers:
- Cholesterol. A 15% reduction in total cholesterol; an average of 35 points per person. One half of the group moved below the 200 level during the challenge.
- Blood pressure. A 10% reduction in blood pressure. Half the group went from borderline high or high blood pressure to the normal range.
- Diabetes test. The average person’s A1C score went down from 7.2 to 6.4 (a reduction of 11 percent); with over half the group moving from either diabetic or pre-diabetic to the non-diabetic zone.
- Weight-Loss. The average BMI went from 30 down to 25, with the average person losing 16 pounds during the 8-week challenge. The total group of twenty people lost 320 pounds.
Reinforcing the need for reducing total cholesterol below 150 is this 12-21-11 video from Dr. Greger. Take a look; it’s just over one minute.
The Bottom Line. We want to help you take charge of your health. Weight-loss is just a bonus of becoming healthy. The above four tests will help you assess your current condition along with your improvement after adopting a near optimal diet.
Disclaimer. The author of this blog or the “Healthy Eating – Healthy World” book is not rendering professional advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, suggestions and procedures on this blog are not intended as a substitute for consulting with a physician. All matters of health require medical supervision. The author will not be responsible for any loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or suggestion on this blog.
If you like what you see here, you may wish to join our periodic mailing list. Also, for help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4-Leaf page.
And if you like what 4-Leaf eating is doing for you and your family, you might enjoy visiting our new “4-Leaf Gear” store. From the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.
If you’d like to order our book on Amazon, visit our BookStore now.
—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at HealthyEatingHealthyWorld.com
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