30 September, 2013.

Article: 1.2

Authored by Madhusmita Jena.

Over the past 30 years the talk about genetics has become increasingly popular.  There are 2 terms that are commonly used and also misused.

Genotype – refers directly to the genetic information stored on your chromosomes.

Phenotype – refers to the actual characteristics you possess such as eye colour, hair colour, foot size etc.

Your phenotype is a result of your phenotype and the surrounding environmental factors.  The environment cannot influence some of your phenotype such as the color of your eyes, but, other aspects, such as body weight and athletic performance, can be controlled.  Environmental factors include your surroundings, climate, nutrition, activity, stress etc.

An effective way to assess your health is to take a look at your immediate family; particularly your parents and grandparents. Some diseases can put you at potential risk if they are already in the family, such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, migraines and heart disease. If you know that you are at risk of developing any of these, then you have the opportunity to modify your lifestyle to help control any possible symptoms and/or ailments.

Your Heart

1. Blood Pressure – You are considered hypertensive (someone with high blood pressure) if you have two consecutive blood pressure readings of 140/90 or higher. It may only be one of the numbers that reads high, however, this is still considered hypertensive and therefore, you should seek the advice of a doctor.

2. Waist Circumference – Where you carry your excess fat, and how much, can have a huge impact on your health risks. “Pear-shaped” people, who carry their extra weight on the hips and thighs, are at a much lower risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, raised cholesterol and diabetes than their “apple-shaped” counter-parts whose extra weight is all around the middle.

To assess whether you are at risk, measure the smallest area around your middle (the part where you go in slightly). If you measure above what is recommended, you are at risk of developing any of the above-mentioned diseases.

Men: above 94cm. High risk above 102cm.

Women: above 80cm. High risk above 88cm.

3. Heart Rate Recovery – Your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) is a good measurement of fitness: The lower it is, the better shape you’re in. Before you get out of bed in the morning, use your index and middle finger to find your pulse on your inner wrist. Count the beats for 10 seconds and multiply that number by six (this will give you your heart’s beats per minute, or bpm).*

Many extremely fit athletes have a RHR of below 60. However, an RHR of below 60 or over 80 could indicate dehydration, thyroid disease or anemia.

> 80 bpm = Fair (Questionable)
60 to 80 bpm = Good (Normal)

All cardio helps lower your resting heart rate.  One great way is through interval training. Short bursts of high-intensity exercise increase anaerobic threshold, which turns the heart into a more efficient muscle.

4. Heart Rate Recovery – The faster your heart returns to its normal rate after exercise, the healthier it is.  Your rate should drop at least 12 beats within a minute post-exercise; if not you are at a higher risk for cardiac disease and even death.

(220 – age) × 0.6 = low end of target heart rate
(220 – age) × 0.8 = high end of target heart rate

Example: a 39-year-old woman (220 – 39) × 0.6 = 109 for low end (220 – 39) × 0.8 = 145 for high end

Run or cycle until you hit that zone. (To measure it, use a heart rate monitor.) Stop and immediately take your pulse. One minute after you stop exercising, take your pulse again. Subtract the second number from the first.

< 12 = Poor
> 12 = Good

If your number is less than 12, your goal is to get at least five 30-minute sessions of steady aerobic exercise, like power walking or jogging (nothing too intense).

5. Earlobe creases – These creases form during your adult years and are linked to coronary artery disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes. One study found a correlation of as great as 80 percent between diagonal ear creases in people under age 40 and coronary artery disease. To check for creases, look for a line running at an angle from the bottom of your ear opening toward the edge of your lobe.

Crease = Poor (Higher Risk)
No Crease = Good (Lower Risk)

Although you can’t make creases disappear but you can minimize your risk factors for heart disease.

Migraines

There are various things you can do to reduce migraine attacks. Keeping hydrated with water and caffeine-free drinks is essential.  Dehydration causes the blood vessels to constrict inducing a headache. Also watch out for trigger foods; alcohol, dairy products and hard cheeses are common instigators. Caffeine, chocolate, citrus fruits and some additives are also known causes of migraines.


Body Composition

In order to achieve maximum athletic performance, you must mold and sculpt your body to best meet your sport specific goals.  As an athlete knowing your weight and how it fits on a height-weight chart is not enough.  You need to know what your body is made of and how it responds to nutrition and training.  The amount of body fat and lean body weight is vital information. You need to know about your metabolism and how it works, how many calories you need a day, how much protein you require, etc.

Excessive levels of body fat are not only associated with cancer and other diseases, but they can also have an effect on the performance of an athlete.

There are several methods to determine body fat levels; the most popular one in the gyms works on bioelectrical impedance.  This works on the basis that water conducts electricity better than fat and because muscle has high water content and fat has a low water content, the rate at which the body conducts electricity can be used to estimate body fat.  Other methods are underwater weighing where a comparison is made of the weight in the air to weight of a completely submerged person who has exhaled completely.  As fat is less dense than water, a person with high amount of fat will weigh less underwater than a person of similar weight who has less fat.  The most accurate method is using skin fold calipers. Approximately 50% of the body fat is under the skin.  Specially designed calipers are used to measure the thickness of skin folds in various parts of the body.

As acceptable figure for body fat for males is between 10-20% and 18-28% for females.  5-7% for males is considered minimum, as is 10-14% for females.  These figures could vary slightly from table to table.

Regular health examinations is very highly recommended as the first step evaluating your general state of health and to screen for risk factors and disease. Early evaluation and screening can help ‘detect’ diseases at the very outset and ‘prevent’ further worsening. For example, a seemingly simple blood pressure check is very useful in ‘detecting’ hypertension, which help your take ‘preventive’ measures against potential subsequent morbidity (e.g., stroke or renal failure) or mortality. While regular health checks do serve as a good barometer for everyone, athletes can also use it effectively to enhance their performance significantly by working on the above measures such as decreasing body fat levels, increasing muscle, reducing your resting heart rate. If “Keeping Good Health” is your Passion; then “Health Check-ups” should be a habit.

Editor’s note:

Author of this article is Madhusmita Jena, a qualified, practicing nutritionist, currently working at Gold’s Gym in Egypt. To ask her questions related to this article, please use the comments box below. 

To seek her consultation on nutrition related advice, please write to her at live@globeracers.com.