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How do we die and how do we lose vitality questions so far have focused my attention on the hurdles to overcome. Some of these have to do with challenges that shorten or bring end to our lifespan. Other items are “diseases” that can decrease our vitality and vigor.

All of these items are, of course, important. For the moment, however, let me step away from these hurdles and reframe the questions.

Let us say, I don’t really have any disease, but I want to live a lifestyle to achieve the optimal health and lifespan. How can I objectively assess where I am presently and then either maintain or improve from here? In other words, how to pursue living an optimal health and vitality, not merely trying to be disease free?

Study of Biomarkers has been an area of aggressive research and pursuit in vitality and aging since the 1980’s.

Biomarkers (short for biological markers) are biological measures of a biological state. By definition, a biomarker is a characteristic that is objectively measured and evaluated as an indicator of normal biological processes, pathogenic processes or pharmacological responses to a therapeutic intervention.

In the context of aging, an important focus for biomarkers has been on finding “the clock” that potentially ticks away our lifespan. Discovery of telomere as a potentially genetic clock is one example of a biomarker that won Elizabeth Blackburn of the University of California San Francisco a Nobel Prize. More recently, Steve Horvath of UCLA has introduced another important biomarker to measure human aging through epigenetic signatures.

Both of these works have sparked fascinating research into areas of aging and extending lifespans. I would like to explore these topics in future blog posts.

On the other hand, for vitality, William Evans, PhD, and Irwin H. Rosenberg, MD, professors of nutrition and medicine, respectively, at Tufts University introduced a concept of biomarkers back in 1991 through their book Biomarkers (Simon and Schuster, 1991), updated in their book, BIOMARKERS: The 10 Keys to Prolonged Vitality (Simon and Schuster, 1992) and more recently updated in the Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter.

In these publications, Evans and Rosenberg isolated the following signposts of vitality that can be altered for the better by changes in lifestyle:

  1. Muscle Mass
  2. Strength
  3. Basal Metabolic Rate
  4. Body Fat Percentage
  5. Aerobic Capacity
  6. Blood-sugar Tolerance
  7. Cholesterol/HDL Ratio
  8. Blood Pressure
  9. Bone density
  10. Ability to regulate Internal Temperature

These same 10 biomarkers keep showing up everywhere in preventative care, in strength training, in other training programs, in nutrition/diet plans and so on.

Additionally, other important biomarkers I have seen show up in various medical and scientific literature and studies on health, vitality and longevity are:

  1. Stress
  2. Inflammation
  3. Sleep
  4. Body’s pH
  5. Flexibility
  6. Balance
  7. Musculoskeletal alignment
  8. Physical and mental reaction time

So, the way I see it is this: the goal of achieving optimal health and lifespan should focus on developing lifestyle that optimizes these objectively measureable / observable biomarkers.

Any exercise plan, nutrition plan, lifestyle adaptations, and any medical program for achieving optimal vitality and lifespan thus must be measured against these criteria.

What do you think?

Do you know of other biomarkers that we can impact that are important for attaining optimal vitality and lifespan?