Hey folks, hope you’re all feeling great! Today’s blog is going to be a recap of my 2021 year in health.
Back in 2010, I started taking my gut and overall health a lot more seriously. I was 35 years old and wanted to make sure the back 9 was as good or better than the front 9.
The one constant since then is that I’m on an ever-changing quest to optimize my lifestyle. Our 30s and 40s set the stage for our 60s, 70s, and 80s, so what I do now will hopefully set me up for the future.
I’ve tried a lot of different things, transitioned through various diets, and done a deep dive in to the benefits of building rock-solid circadian rhythms. So far, I feel this has probably yielded the best results.
I’ve also done a great job of staying on top of testing my insulin sensitivity and blood glucose regulation. And this year, I decided to add the Precision Health Report and a coronary artery calcium score to make sure my the ticker works well.
We’ll look at those tests momentarily, but before we do that, let’s talk changes that affected my 2021 year in health.
2021 year in health-Changes I made
I made several changes to my lifestyle and diet this year. We’ll break each down below.
Sleep hygiene changes
I made a couple of changes to my sleep hygiene/routine this year. First, I used the data from my Fitbit Charge 4 to optimize my sleep window. Previously I was going to bed and waking up a bit too early, so I shifted a bit later.
I also adjusted my evening/nighttime lighting environment and stopped relying on blue blockers as my primary means of lowering light exposure at night. I still use my Spectra479 on occasion, but don’t feel the need to use them nightly. Truth be told, blue blockers work for people, but the data indicates they’re just not the optimal situation.
Finally, I made chamomile tea a consistent addition at 6:45 pm. It seems to have a beneficial effect on my sleep.
Removing it did seem to lead to poorer sleep. But this could simply be from consuming something warm after dinner. I may try some different teas next year to find out.
From a long-term health perspective, there is likely nothing more important than general physical activity and exercise. If you want to live a long time in good health, maintain your muscle mass and keep moving.
This year I increased the amount of strength training I do and how I do it. I moved from 3 days/week to 4-5, and walk between sets.
Additionally, I added in more lower level cardio, aka zone 2 training. I also shoot for 600 active minutes per week and track it with a Fitbit.
Finally, I made an effort to get out and walk in the wilderness for at least an hour a week. There’s some pretty good data on the health benefits of forest bathing, and I have access to some great parks near me.
My diet has gone through quite an evolution over the last 10 years. I did the Paleo thing for 2 years, Low carb/keto for a year, and have been eating a higher carb diet for the last 5 years.
This year I kept the carbs up, bumped fiber from 30ish per day to 60ish, and bumped up my protein. I also added flaxseed to my breakfast parfait bowl, added edamame to my salads, and made smoked salmon a 2 day/week add to my salads.
Finally, I dropped all supplements other than collagen and creatine. I eliminated:
- A fiber blend I made with glucomannan, inulin, acacia, and larch arabinogalactin
I did start adding mineral drops to my water as a means of increasing trace mineral intake.
There were adjustments to these changes, particularly the fiber increase. It took a bit, but once my body adjusted to the changes, I think I saw some pretty good improvements in gut and overall health.
My 2021 year in health outcomes
So, overall, I had some excellent health outcomes this year. In August I did a Precision Health Report which looked at my cardiometabolic disease risk. I covered that in a 2- part blog, the first on my inflammation numbers and the second on my insulin sensitivity and cardiovascular disease risk.
Crib notes: Inflammation was super low (~2nd percentile), my LP insulin resistance score was 20(Off the chart good), but my ApoB was a little high. Even for me.
My results put me in good shape in terms of my 10 year risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. But my father had a triple bypass at my age and my maternal grandmother had an early heart attack as well.
So I did a follow up CAC score to see how much calcified plaque I may have in my coronary artery. Spoiler alert, it was zero.
So, from a cardiovascular disease risk standpoint, 2021 was a good year. This is important for me. And the sheer amount of conflicting information on how diets affect cardiovascular disease pushed me to get my numbers.
Overall, my diet is giving me great results for cardiovascular disease. I eat higher carb(~300g), high fiber(~60g), high polyphenol, and higher protein (At least 150g/day). I eat tons of plants, nuts & seeds, and a diversity of animal products.
Data from my Fitbit
My fitbit also showed some improvements overall. My sleep improved quite a bit. In 2020, I had a total of 4 nights with a sleep score of 90 or above. Importantly, this is only over 6 months, as that’s when the data became available.
In 2021, I had 87 nights of 90+ scores throughout the entire year. For the exact same time period as 2020, I had 36 nights. Furthermore, my nights of poor sleep were normally higher.
For example, when I consumed alcohol or stayed up a bit later, my sleep was disrupted less. Additionally, I had a 7 minute increase in my average REM sleep per night. This likely isn’t statistically significant, but it’s something I tried to improve. In fact, it’s how I knew shifting my sleep schedule was a good idea.
I’m more than happy with the changes I made this year and the improvements I saw with them. If I were assessing my 2021 year in health, I’d give myself an A-/B+.
It took forever to get my gut as healthy as it is. Furthermore, I’ve always had a rough time getting my fiber over 30 grams per day without significant bloating. To essentially double that with no bloating is a huge win.
My sleep is definitely so much better. In addition, I really like my 10pm-6am sleep window now compared to before.
I’m also happy to be basically supplement free. I’m not anti-supplement by any stretch of the imagination. But I’m pro investing in things that yield a big bang for the buck, and supplements don’t meet that criteria. At least not for me (They’re great bang for the buck for supplement companies). 🙂
2 thoughts on “My 2021 year in health review”
I have a question about Coronary Artery Calcium scoring – could you expand on the test and its specifics? Does it have any contrast materials put to your body or gives radiation?
It was a ~6 minute CT scan with no contrast materials. It wasn’t covered by insurance, but was only $150 out of pocket here on the US.