Improve your health results while staying indoors

COVID-19 is making many of us stay indoors. While we slowly adapt to this situation, we’re also discovering new hacks every day to maintain a healthy lifestyle. To add to that list, here’s how you can improve your My Nightingale results while staying indoors. 

Many of you have taken your first My Nightingale blood analysis and are probably now looking for ways to improve a specific biomarker or health indicator. However, life has changed since the pandemic, making us stay home. We, therefore, thought of writing a blog post about how to improve your health while staying indoors.

My Nightingale blood analysis tracks 6 health indicators, each one attached to a different aspect of your health. Although it might be tempting to start improving all of them at the same time, changing too many things together can get overwhelming. Therefore, the key is to take baby steps — making small improvements aimed at a particular aspect of health, or even a biomarker, at a time. Once you get used to a “new health routine”, set another one with a new goal. These small steps will accumulate over time and lead to bigger health improvements.

Here’s how you can improve your health indicator (and the associated biomarkers) results while staying indoors.

Cholesterol balance

Contributing biomarkers: ApoB, ApoA1, ApoB/ApoA1 ratio, total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, VLDL-cholesterol.

Cholesterol balance along with all its contributing biomarkers is linked to your heart health. And diet is the most effective way to improve it. While many of us are cooking at home more than ever, a change in routine is always difficult to adjust to. For instance, missing the ease of a workplace cafeteria that took care of the daily “balanced lunch” could mean leaning towards easy options like frozen food or order-ins. It’s ok as long as it doesn’t become the routine. Also, having a stash of healthy snacks (like fruits and nuts) is a good idea to avoid unhealthy temptations during those coffee breaks.

Food itemsHeart-healthy choice
Bread, rice and pastaThe bread should have at least 6% (6g/100g) of fibre content. Also, pick wholegrain options in pasta and rice over the refined ones.
Vegetables and fruitsMake a rainbow and get as many different colour vegetables and fruits as possible
ProteinsInstead of getting meat balls, choose fish or a plant-based alternative, like pulled oats. The ready-cooked beans and lentils are a super easy protein source to add to any dish.
Cooking oilNon-tropical vegetable oils, such as olive, rapeseed oil, canola and corn are the best.
Milk, yoghurt & other dairy itemsMake sure that they are low in fat and have zero added sugar. Use fruits and berries as sweeteners in your yoghurt instead. You can also give plant-based alternatives like oat- or soya- based yoghurt, milk and cooking cream a try.
SpreadsFor spreads, choose a plant-oil based margarine. Spreads that include plant sterols and stanols have been scientifically proven to lower cholesterol.
Breakfast cerealsPick the ones with at least 10% of fibre content and less than 10% of added sugar. Oat- and rye-based products are also a good choice. But check the fibre content there as well.
SnacksFruits are the best, but you can also pick some plain nuts and a bar of dark chocolate for variety.
Drinks1 to 2 glasses of fresh fruit juices per day is OK. Avoid sodas and other sugary drinks. Alternatives could be unsweetened drinks like cucumber or lemon water.

Read more about a heart-healthy diet here.

Blood sugar

Contributing biomarker: Glucose

Blood sugar or your blood glucose level is associated with the energy metabolism in your body. In the long run, a high blood sugar level increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Thus, maintaining it within the normal range is important and requires a combination of diet and physical activity. Also, blood sugar has a direct link to having a healthy body weight. Thus, any exercise that increases your heart rate as well as helps you keep up muscle mass is good for it. Since we’re looking for indoor options, a small circuit training inside the house checks both boxes. There are ample of free resources on the internet, including videos and apps, to guide you. Just search for ‘freehand or no-equipment endurance training’ and you'll find many options with different time lengths and intensity. Pick the one that suits you the best. Also, it doesn’t necessarily have to be exercise or sports — dancing, gardening and even doing house chores like cleaning and carrying heavy shopping — are all counted as physical activities. In terms of diet, aim to eat proper meals — breakfast, lunch, a snack and dinner — to avoid sudden dips in your sugar levels, which may also lead you to eat something unhealthy.

Inflammation

Contributing biomarker: GlycA

Chronic low-grade inflammation is a steady, low-level inflammation throughout the body that indicates disease risk such as stroke, diabetes, kidney and lung diseases. Like blood sugar, both diet and exercise are needed to decrease inflammation level as it also has a strong link to bodyweight. However, recent studies have found that sleep and stress levels also influence chronic low-grade inflammation. Also, sleep is the time when your body heals and regenerates. Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines (a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation) and T cells (a type of white blood cell that regulates immune response). Therefore, adequate sleep is an absolute essential for a healthy immune response as well. So, make sure you maintain a good sleep rhythm and get around 8 hours of rest every night. For weight maintenance, any physical activity — be it indoor stair-exercise, circuit training, walking to the shop or just around the house — is effective, as long as you are able clock-in 20 to 30 minutes every day. You can break that up into 10-minute sections — 10 minutes in the morning, 10 in the afternoon and 10 in the evening. Even in small spaces, walking around or walking on the spot, helps you remain active. So, say during a phone call, rather than sitting down, stand or walk around your home while you speak. If you decide to go outside to walk or exercise, maintain the recommended one-meter distance from others.

Here are a few free apps to find inspiration for some easy home workouts:

Fatty acid balance

Contributing biomarkers: PUFA%, MUFA%

Fatty acid balance is a measure of good versus bad fats in your blood. And good fats obviously come from food. Now that we are cooking most of our food at home, try switching to more plant-based fats. So, if you have been making sandwiches for lunch because they’re filling and fast, get a wholegrain loaf and ditch the butter or mayo. Instead, use vegetable oil-based margarine or avocado as the spread. Also, avoid processed meat and cheese. If your omega-3 levels are low, try and have fatty fishes (like salmon) 2 to 3 times a week. Also, studies show plant-based fats and diet is much better for your health. So, consider going vegetarian or even vegan for a couple of days per week.

Diabetes resistance

Contributing biomarkers: Glucose, GlycA, ApoB, ApoA1, ApoB/ApoA1 ratio, HDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, VLDL-cholesterol, PUFA%, MUFA%, Omega-6%, SFA%.

Diabetes resistance and the associated biomarkers are values that show how well-guarded your body is against the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the long run. Again, a combination of diet and physical activity is important to build a good diabetes resistance as bodyweight is one of the key factors that impair your guards against the disease. As blood glucose is one of the main biomarkers that influence your diabetes resistance, any physical activity that increases your heart rate and helps you keep up muscle mass will help improve your body’s diabetes resistance. So, try a basic circuit training (see examples under blood sugar) inside the house. The eating advice of not skipping meals given under blood sugar applies here as well.

Heart age

Contributing biomarkers: GlycA, ApoB, ApoA1, ApoB/ApoA1 ratio, total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, VLDL-cholesterol.

Heart age reflects your cardiovascular health compared to your biological age and its contributing biomarkers help in monitoring your long-term heart health as well as heart disease risk. Two things that are key to having a healthy heart is dietary fat quality and endurance exercise. Easy way to kill those two birds with one stone during this lockdown? Go grocery shopping with the right list — 1) pick 3 different fruit and vegetables and go for the ones that require zero to little preparation time such as bananas, apples, grapes, baby carrots, avocados, cherry tomatoes and such; 2) switch to rapeseed or olive oil for cooking and salad dressing; 3) pick wholegrain bread and oats for breakfast 4) for snacking get plain nuts and a bar of dark chocolate. Also, to cover the endurance exercise part, cycle or brisk walk to and back from the store.