Thursday, December 29, 2011

December Lab Results

I went and got some lab work done.  For the most part...Pretty good.  I have kept a solid paleo/bulletproof diet for about a month.  No real cheating to speak of.  The few times I drank, it was even vodka and soda.

Lets start with the high sensitivity C Reactive Protein test.  A test for inflammation where low is good and anything below 1 is low.  I came in at .2  High Five.  Awesome.  I probably won't be testing this again any time soon.

Similarly, Vitamin D is looking good too.  I switched to gelcaps, made sure that I ate before I took it (It is only absorbed with fat).  When I tested in March I was at 44.  Today....89.3.  Again, awesome.  The blogger types say anything over 50 is good (over 100 is excessive and 150 is toxic).  I may actually even skip a day or two on this one.  Although apparently taking Vitamin D in the morning can improve sleep.

Lets go to cholesterol. HDL not where it needs to be but going in the right direction.  Same with triglycerides - basically a 50% reduction.  LDL has gone up.  Some of that might just be testing variance, but for right now just going to take the good and not worry about the bad unless it still looks like that a month or two from now.

Original                                       New
HDL - 29                                    HDL - 37
Triglycerides - 276                      Triglycerides - 148
LDL - 93                                    LDL - 118
VLDL - Not tested before           VLDL - 30


I don't have my old tests handy, when I get them I will update.  The numbers weren't great but hopefully they are at least trending in the right direction.

In the future, I'll probably start exercising again.  There is also a theory that Triglycerides may go up because your liver starts releasing all of it excess fats. Again, I'll be smarter after I get my old tests, but right now I am assuming they are trending correctly and that they will get better after I have been doing it for more than a month. 

If LDL stays high...may follow the advice in this post as an excuse to go get fancy micronutrient testing done that Tim Ferris talks about.  Or I may just start eating liver. 

Updates when I get old tests back

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I think Blood Pressure responds to Potassium

So I knew when I started that Blood Pressure can be tough to measure.  That is why I decided to measure first thing in the morning to avoid as much of that fickleness as possible.  I think that is still a good idea but there can still be a lot of variability. 

I have noticed that going to the bathroom or yawning can cause noticeable changes in BP.  I suspect waking up from a dream could even be different than waking up from a light sleep.  In an extreme example, my blood pressure was lower after a day at work than it was that morning.

Point is...these numbers are approximate.

When I first got off medicine, BP goes to around 140/90. As a comparison, when I was on medicine I averaged 108/71.  When I started taking potassium the average is 126/83. So top number is OK, but bottom number just barely changes.  This is just at wake up so I would imagine that it probably increase throughout the day.

I will continue to go high potassium and see what happens.  I will also start with the emWave2.  The theory being that stress reduction will cause improvements.

Magnesium helps me sleep (Potassium may help even more)

After 20 days of taking a bath in Epsom Salts (MgSO4), I definitely went into deeper sleep than I have.  This has been one of the more clear results.

Column1 nothing mask/earplugs/magnesium pills magnesium bath magnesium bath And Potassium
z score 75.6 71 67.2 69.3
deep 37.4 32.5 30.2 32
awake 17.4 20 13.5 10.8
awoken 3.6 4 2.8 2.5

Clear reductions in # of times awoken and time awake.  It includes a recent night that had 0 wake ups.  Unprecendented.

You can also see that when I started adding potassium to my diet the time awake and times woken were even better.  I have been high potassium for 13 of the 20 bath taking days.  I don't know if the addition of Potassium was truly a help or whether that was just a result of taking the bath consistently.  I am planning on doing both for the time being.  I figure pretty soon there will be a time where I can't do both and I can see then if the effect is synergistic or not.  Not going to do an experiment just for this.

What is also interesting is the lack of improvement in deep sleep.  The two (awake time and deep time) are clearly not perfectly correllated.  A subjective analysis shows that sometimes I would go into deep more than once (Something I rarely did before) and rarely woke up in the middle of the big initial deep sleep (Something I did often before).

This makes some sense since deep sleep is the physical recuperation portion of sleep and I haven't really increased my physical exertions.  Perhaps it would increase if I exercised more.  Staying asleep certainly isn't enough.

I plan to continue with Magnesium and Potassium.  The next big sleep thing will be using the emWave2 that arrived today.  I am skeptical on this one for sleep.  I generally have no problem falling asleep.  If my theory on deep sleep is correct it seems like it wouldn't affect that either.

I may expand to starting Dual N-Back training as well,  I have enough cognitive performance data now and there are reports it increases REM sleep.  Starting emWave and N-Back Training at the same time may be a bit too much right now.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Quick Blood Pressure Update - magnesium and more vitamin D

I ran out of prescription so I am going to go awhile before refilling it and see what happens.

Relevant items include going from 4000IU of Vitamin D tablets to 5000IU of gelcaps a day.  Its more and I am told that gelcaps lead to more reliable absorption.  I am pretty good about taking the tablets after food so in theory only the increase in IU's will change.

Also, magnesium apparently can affect blood pressure so we shall see.

I am still taking Vitamin C.

Back to the Drawing Board on sleep experiments

Upon the collection of further data, I have basically made no progress on improving my sleep.  In fact, in general, I am worse than I was during the control week.  Check it out.

Column1 nothing just mask any mask mask/ear plugs mask/earplugs/magnesium
z score 75.6 72.2 74.4 74 71
deep 37.4 36.8 35 34 32.5
awake 17.4 22.8 17.8 17 20
awoken 3.6 3.2 3.4 3.4 4

Its not the proudest I have ever been of a table, but the results are pretty clear if you take a second.

Lets talk about the magnesium a second.  I noticed one thing....I pooped more.  Turns out the poop part is very common and means it isn't really getting into your system.

In follow on research, I have become convinced that I still am not getting enough magnesium (most people aren't).  And if you are deficient, in a cruel twist of fate, it can be hard to get it orally (thus the squirts). 

So now the next step...ditch the sleep mask, earplugs and take epsom salt baths to get magnesium topically. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sleep updates - Sleep Mask/Earplugs = good, caffeine = bad

So wearing a sleep mask and earplugs definitely reduces the number of times I wake up (3.6 to 2.5) and the amount of time awake (17.4 to 12.8).  However, it didn't seem to do much for the amount of deep sleep I got (37.4 to 38.3).  I rarely felt tired during this time (didn't really want to take a nap), but I also didn't feel particularly energetic.  I don't have a better way of describing it.  There was also no real increase in productivity during the time of this improved sleep.

These results are confounded a bit by the fact that I also cut out caffeine for all but one day of this trial.  I don't think the results are largely due to that though.  One day, I intentionally drank an above average amount of caffeine and that was the night I only woke up once for two minutes and had the second highest amount of deep sleep ever.

I did notice that I had a headache for three days after quitting.  Which seems like withdrawal...that isn't cool.  I also noticed I didn't have the afternoon dip after I got through the headaches.  So I probably will continue to avoid caffeine even though it doesn't appear to directly affect sleep.

Bottom line....a lot of waking/wake time is bad for deep sleep, but there is clearly more to increasing deep sleep than just sleeping through the night.

I am going to try experimenting with 800mg of Magnesium now.  There is a lot of anecdotal evidence in forums and from Tim Ferriss that it improves sleep.

Even more Vitamin C does not equal even more Blood Pressure Reduction

After increasing Vitamin C to 1000mg, There was no further reduction in blood pressure.

I have gone back to 500mg of Vitamin C.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Vitamin C seems like it lowers Blood Pressure

After 8 days of control data and 8 days of taking Vitamin appears to have lowered my blood pressure about 5 points.  112/75 to 107/70.  

Even though I had seen the research, I have to tell you I'm a little surprised.  There was a drop on the first night.  I did everything I could to keep everything else the same.  In fact, I really used it as an excuse to eat kinda crappy.  The sleep experiments did continue at the same time, but I can find no connection between any of the sleep results and the blood pressure.

I think I am going to up the dosage to 1000 mg (+90 mg from multivitamin). 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Orange Glasses don't work....but Sleep Mask might

There is no connection between the amount of deep sleep I get and the Orange Goggles (37.4 vs 37.7 min) The theory that I need to wind down more to get more deep sleep is not true. No matter how I sliced up the data it took about 50 minutes before I hit deep sleep.

In retrospect, this makes a little sense. If there were any problems with me and light...It is probably that I am not getting enough rather than too much. May explore more time in the sun in a future experiment.

So it must be interruptions that are taking me out of deep sleep.

There is clearly a connection between the number of wake ups, time awake, and deep sleep. The x-axis below is number of times to wake up. You can see amount of deep sleep decreasing as the number of wakes.

The trouble is the Sleep Mask doesn't appear to be doing the trick. It decreases the average number of wake ups (4.3 to 3.2 per night), but doesn't significantly change the amount of deep sleep (36.8 to 38 min night). It actually appears to have increased the amount of wake time (18 to 22.8 min).

My only guess is sound. I live in an urban area next to a train track. I haven't personally noticed noise in the night but it is all I got.

I'll start tonight wearing earplugs along with the sleep mask and see what happens.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

First Blood Pressure experiment

I took my first 500 mg of Vitamin C today.  I'll take one every day.  I am betting it will be at least a month before there is any evidence of anything.  I will continue to take my Lisinopril for the duration.

The research this is based on is located on the original blood pressure post

My current average morning BP is 112/75.

EDIT: I have also been taking a multivitamin for quite some time with 90 mg of Vitamin C.  So 590 mg of Vitamin C a day.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Orange Glasses sure feel like they work....

But I'll be damned if I can prove it.

Time to sleep didn't really change.  I am not the type to go to bed till I am ready so that seems unlikely.  My time to go to bed didn't change much either though.  I notice I yawn when I wear them, but I am not looking to increase my yawn count.

All that being said, I do think it gives me a drowsy feeling that increases the likelihood that I go to bed at a decent hour.  It may be placebo, but that is good enough for now.

However, there is no doubt that there isn't any increase in deep sleep.  In that respect, the experiment was a failure.

Still learned quite a bit.  The amount of deep sleep directly affects how I feel in the morning/throughout the day.  The only day I felt noticeably better was the day I got almost twice as much deep sleep as I did any other day (even though it was the lowest total amount of sleep since I started tracking). 

The current hypothesis then has to be that something (light/noise) is interrupting my deep sleep.  Since I am more comfortable with the idea of wearing a sleep mask rather than earplugs/white noise machine....we'll start with that.

For the next three nights (may have to be four since I will probably skip the night when i have houseguests), I will continue with orange glasses an hour or so before bed and a sleep mask before I go to sleep.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

First four nights of data and the first sleep experiment

Have completed the first four nights of data collection with the Zeo.  Initially, I had intended to get a whole weeks worth of data before experimenting began.  However, there are a few patterns that are so obvious I am going to go ahead and work on them.

First, the data with a little commentary

Friday night...note the transition from Deep to Light right before 2.  This was the result of some drunks outside my window.  Notice all the waking that happens after 6.

Saturday night (Sunday morning) I took a nap that afternoon so sleepy time didn't happen till 4.  Notice the near total lack of Deep (I'm not sure if something happened at 5 to wake me up)  Again, notice all the waking after 6.

Sunday night - Worked out during the day.  Didnt seem to cause any notable change.  41 minutes of Deep.  Again, notice all the waking after 6.

Monday Night -  Almost don't want to count this night since I woke up a little before 6 and instantly went to check the data.  Feel I may have thrown it off. 37 minutes of Deep.

So two issues instantly pop out (you see where this is going?).  The waking up around 6....I can only assume is related to sunrise.  This is a surprise.  I would not have guessed this would be an issue (which is why I didn't have a sleep mask on the things I wanted to test) Except for Monday, whenever I go to sleep I start spending a lot of time awake after 6. 

Second is the low amount of Deep.  I haven't felt especially refreshed after any of these nights.  My REM sleep is above average (on the high side in fact) and my Deep is on the low end.  That makes me think  the lack of Deep sleep is preventing me from feeling great.

The sunrise issue can probably be dealt with pretty easily.  I already have a sleep mask and if that showed great results, I have already priced out some black out curtains.  However, I dont think that is going to be too helpful.  On workdays, I generally don't sleep too much past 6 anyway and it would probably only add to my REM or light sleep which I am getting plenty off.

I am going to test the orange glasses as a way of increasing Deep sleep.  The theory being that my brain will be shutting down while I wear them so when I finally hit the sack I will drop down to Deep.  I am going to try to wear them at least an hour before going to bed. 

If the theory is correct, than the results should be pretty instantaneous.  Next entry will be after three nights of data.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Virtues of Critical Thinking

The article here has been making the QS rounds today.  Check it out.

I should start by saying that I don't really care for the tone of this article and so I could be overreacting.  I think I have something smart to say either way.  The author's use of  'obsessive' and 'virtually every' makes me think he might not be a big fan of the QS peeps.  Again, maybe I am overreacting and the rest of my thoughts should still be valid even if I am overinterpreting.

First point - even if imprecise feedback was better than precise feedback, how do either of them compare to zero feedback (which is what most people have)?  If any kind of feedback is better than no feedback...that is a argument for QS, not against.

Second point - This assumes that the person getting the feedback is positively motivated (so the can positively "distort the information")  The discussion in the QS community about gamification and behavior change shows that new habits often require more than just data to actual get a change in results.  I am not sure that any imprecision will get used for good.

That all being said the study showed what it showed and the results may seem a bit paradoxical to some QS'ers.  If taken literally it means we might even consider fuzzying our data on purpose.  That couldn't be right could it?

I have at least a stab at an answer.  I think when things are directly connected it would be hard to have data that is too precise.  If you are diabetic and you have a donut, I don't really think anyone would suggest that "your blood sugar is higher than it was" is precise enough to take action on.  You need to know what your blood sugar is so you can determine how much insulin you need to take.

Contrast that situation with something like weight loss.  There are a whole lot of factors that can get confounded with each other and if you are weighing yourself to the gram every hour you might very well find some connections that aren't there.  I think a weekly update on your weight (perhaps with some sort of body composition check up) would be the way to go in that situation.

However, if you were a pro bodybuilder trying to get from 8% bodyfat to 7% bodyfat...maybe you would need to hourly weigh ins down to the gram.

Point is....don't read too much into this article.  Keep on quantifying. To bastardize an Einstein quote - your data needs to be as precise as it needs to be, but not one bit more.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Blood Pressure Hacking

There is a surprising lack of information that I could find about Blood Pressure in the Quantified Self community. The only item I found is this.  Not very helpful.

I went to Curetogether to see what I could find. There was more but it wasn't very helpful.  Reduce salt and exercise are incredibly non-specific.

I guess I am going to be breaking some ground here.

The QS article does make a good point as far as the variability in measuring BP.  My plan will be to take the measurement first thing in the morning.  That will presumably be the most standard time (no variation due to stress or activity).

I have already started recording my morning BP.  I will continue throughout the sleep experiments to see how that affects BP.  I will continue taking the Lisinopril I am on through out the duration.

When I decide to formally test the BP  It will probably look something like this
Very eager to hear if there are other things to test

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sleep Hacking

While I intend to start measuring for everything simultaneously....the first active work I am going to do is on sleep.  I think it will affect all the metrics positively, and it will also be the easiest to measure/play with thanks to the Zeo I ordered.

I will collect a week of control data.  Then I will test a number of the ideas I have heard for improving sleep.
  • Orange Glasses - I already own Orange Glasses and believe they do help.  It will be nice to have data to confirm deny the effects. (Here is a way to get them cheaper)
  • Standing on one leg -  I have my doubts.  Will be probably be a bit more convenient than the glasses if it has an effect
  • Pzizz - This will be at the bottom of the list of things I try.  It costs money.
  • Earthing - Sounds very shady. Also costs some money so will be at the bottom of the list
  • Meditation - may try this, but quantifying the meditation part may prove to be a challenge
Expect the Zeo to be here any day now.  Will get started after that.

What am I going to work on

I am not interested in quantifying for the sake of itself.  There are a couple of items I specifically want to work on

  • Sleep - I don't have any particular sleeping issues.  I know the difference in how I feel and perform after a good nights sleep so I would like to maximize that.  Ultimately, I would like to reduce the number of hours I sleep while still deriving all the benefits of longer sleep
  • Blood Pressure - I am currently prescribed medicine, for my blood pressure.  This is annoying for several reasons and I will be working to eliminate the need for that.
  • Productivity - This will largely be a subjective measurement.  1-5 scale
  • Sneezing - I am allergic to something.  I dont know what it is.  I'm going to track it down.
  • Appearance - I wanna look good.  More Muscle.  Less Fat.  There are ways to quantify this, but unfortunately it is a slow process so there will be big gaps.  Less easy to iterate.
Anyone who has any theories on how to affect any of these...I am looking for ideas.  Send them my way

What we are doing here

This will be my pseudo-public journal (Is it public if no one knows about it?) chronicling my efforts to improve body and mind. 

I'll be using the philosophy of the Quantified Self to test many of the hacking ideas of Seth Roberts, Tim Ferriss, Dave Asprey, and many others.

I'm doing in an a blog so that others may benefit from the results and I can get feedback from others for further improvement/experimentation.