If it hadn’t been for InsideTracker, Mark Drangsholt might not have had access to life-saving information about what was really going on inside of his body. A world-class triathlete, Professor and Chair of Oral Medicine at the University of Washington, and a PhD in Epidemiology, Drangsholt has been involved in the Quantified Self movement for one and a half years. It was there that he initially heard about InsideTracker. Although extremely fit and athletically inclined, Dr. Drangsholt, 55, had felt somewhat plagued by high LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels, which “always bothered me and didn’t make any sense,” he says. For several years, he had been asking his cardiologist and primary care physician to consider running further tests to get more information, but they dissuaded him. Although he calls his physicians “outstanding,” he was quite healthy by their standards and thus not considered a candidate for additional testing.
InsideTracker, on the other hand, allowed Dr. Drangsholt to take control. InsideTracker makes sense, he says, because “everyone is a little different; the ‘one size fits all’ maxim doesn’t make sense anymore.” He decided on a strategy whereby he would get his blood tested every one to two months, and make a targeted nutrition or supplementation change based on the results. He says his real transformation happened through this process, which began in February of 2013. A few of his suboptimal biomarkers, such as vitamin D and folic acid, were easy to fix right off the bat, he says. He quickly optimized by boosting his vitamin D intake and cutting back on foods and supplements fortified with folic acid.
When Dr. Drangsholt saw the familiar high LDL levels, however, it armed him with the data he needed to go back to his cardiologist and press for further testing. Sure enough, he underwent a coronary calcium scan and it revealed potential calcification (narrowing) in critical regions in his heart. Subsequent genetic testing showed Drangsholt to be a carrier of the Apolipoprotein E4 gene, which predisposes to early heart disease as well as late-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. These results prompted Drangsholt’s physician to tell him he needed to start taking a statin drug. Drangsholt was convinced, however, that he could make some changes on his own. He asked for one month, and used InsideTracker’s recommendations to help guide his diet and lifestyle changes.
Drangsholt almost completely eliminated saturated fat from his diet as well as cutting out dairy and red meat and upping his salt water fish intake. He also started enjoying the university salad bar every day for lunch. “I never really liked mushrooms, for example, but I tried morel mushrooms,” a recommendation from InsideTracker. Twenty-eight days later, his LDL cholesterol was 107, down from 126, and his total cholesterol was 187, down from 208. His physicians were impressed, to say the least, and agreed that a statin was no longer necessary. He has continued to monitor his levels with InsideTracker, and reached an impressive LDL of 85, and total cholesterol of 154, just two months later.
“If those high LDLs [in the InsideTracker system] hadn’t been staring me in the face, there’s no way I would have advocated for further testing,” he says. “I’m pretty grateful.”
He adds that the InsideTracker graphs were especially helpful because they showed him where he was and what he was working towards. Measurement and the ability for people to see their progress is “the centerpiece of behavior change and optimization,” he says.
Drangsholt sums up his experience with InsideTracker by saying: “Our current health-care system is disease-based. People come in when they are sick. InsideTracker is an example of the future of healthcare, where concentrating on wellness is the main focus. In my example, in the effort to be healthy and well, I was able to uncover subclinical disease that the traditional medical care system was not able to, and take targeted steps to improve my health.”
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