How We Measure Health

One of the key components of making the right health decisions is - and ever will be - having the right information from which to decide. In today's world of blood tests and screening exams and Gleason scores, this seems pedestrian. But the fact is that medicine only began quantifying health in the early 1900s, with the notion of high blood pressure, and it was well into the 1950s before individuals became aware of their numbers. I read recently that FDR's blood pressure was high for nearly a decade, hovering as high as 200/150- astronomical, by today's standards -for years, and was locked at 260/150 near his death from, yup, heart disease. But with no treatment available, the number was simply a warning that, maybe, he should cut back on smoking a bit.

In the 60 years since, the number of commonly tracked health metrics has soared, so much so that, these days, you can track them on your iPhone


The ability to track (and utility of tracking) these metrics seems to me increasingly important. While my colleagues over the Quantified Self have been sniffing around the greater landscape of personal metrics (UPDATE: and Alexandra Carmichael recently posted the 40 things about herself that she tracks daily), from productivity apps to those photo-a-day guys, I've been especially interested in those metrics that we can use to provide feedback and can perhaps manipulate in the hopes of improving our health (whether it's running faster or weighing less). Feedback, to me, is key. Where FDR could only watch his numbers climb, now to have our numbers is to have the opportunity to adjust our numbers.

Which brings me to the point of this post: Aan effort to begin cataloging all the health metrics ordinary citizens might have available to track. The list - which needs your help - begins after the jump:

I've divided these into three categories (for now). Basic stats, Biometrics (in the sense of physiological statistics), and Relative Stats (variable inputs & subjective data). There may be better categories, and there are certainly stats I'm missing, so please help me add more

Basic stats:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Sex
  • Age


  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol count (LDL and HDL)
  • Menstrual cycle (time)
  • Blood glucose level
  • liver enzyme level
  • Gleason score (prostate test)
  • (lots more blood tests out there)

Relative Stats:

  • calorie intake
  • fat intake
  • transfat intake
  • protein intake
  • carb intake
  • exercise (time, weight, reps)
  • mood
Thomas Goetz7 Comments