What Is Health Optimization?

Let's define health optimization, explore how it differs from preventive medicine, and discuss strategies for attaining optimal health. 

Amy Brownstein
By Amy Brownstein

Published June 10, 2024.

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If you are already active and healthy, you may be wondering about the next step. Perhaps there is something more you can do to further improve health? Health optimization is the next level-up. It's that fine tuning of habits to give you a further edge to achieving health outcomes. Because even if you feel like you're doing everything right for your health, there's often a more targeted approach that can get you closer to your goals, faster. 

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What does health optimization mean? 

Health optimization refers to implementing targeted protocols that help you operate at your greatest level—physically and mentally. It is about evaluating and improving your health to reach your best or most optimal status. Moreover, it encourages small changes over time to move the needle from adequate to good to optimal health.

It goes beyond living at a healthy, disease-free baseline. Instead, it asks, what more you can do to improve yourself? How can you optimize health and well-being for as long as possible?

People with a health optimization mindset focus on actions and habits that can improve their longevity and the years spent in generally good health—also known as your healthspan. They view their health as an iterative process and seek to routinely check in with themselves with subjective and objective analysis. Anyone of any age can be a health optimizer, but a commonality of the people who fall within this category is a drive to perform and function at their highest capacity now and years down the road.    

How it differs from preventive medicine, treatment, and reactive approaches

Compared to a treatment-based or reactive approach to health—such as improving health only once a disease diagnosis exists—preventive medicine aims to stave off illness and the onset of chronic diseases. Preventative medicine is proactive rather than reactive, addressing how a condition can be prevented. These healthcare providers encourage routine screenings to detect disease risks early and prevent future problems. Vaccines, annual physicals, screenings, tests, and public health education fall under preventive health. [1]

Health optimization goes beyond preventative medicine to how to become your best self. It is the most proactive approach you can take and moves the conversation away from the context of chronic disease and towards achieving and maintaining vitality for decades to come. 

Consumer tech innovations can help achieve health optimization

Consumer-centric tech innovations—like wearable devices and tracking blood biomarkers—can help people better understand their health status. Using these tools, people can monitor their health and change their behaviors to encourage optimal health. And tracking progress toward health goals using technology may motivate and help you stick with healthy habits. Moreover, tailoring health recommendations to the individual based on their health data may lead to better results. [2] 

How can you optimize health?

Here’s how you can put health optimization principles into practice. 

Determine your health goals

The first step toward optimizing your health is determining your health goals. Instead of asking yourself how to prevent disease, consider how you want to feel. Ask yourself what would make you feel your best and establish goals. 

Goal setting is a valuable tool for enacting behavior change. Write down your goals and be specific. Consider the who, what, where, when, and which related to accomplishing your goal. Goals should be relevant and challenging but realistic, attainable, and specific. 

One effective method for goal setting is to establish SMART goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic/relevant, and time constraint. [3] 

  • Specific: Identify the desired goal and describe the behavior precisely and clearly. The more detail, the better. Next, consider the environment required for the goal. What tools do you need? Do you have social support? What's the context of your physical environment? 
  • Measurable: Determine how you will track progress, stay motivated, and evaluate success. For example, using InsideTracker’s blood biomarker test can be a helpful way to get a good understanding of your health and to measure goals related to improving nutrient levels. 
  • Achievable: Create a goal that will be challenging but doable. You should be able to reach the goal with some effort, changes, and behavior modification.  
  • Realistic/relevant: Make sure the goal is important to you and consider how this will optimize your health. 
  • Time constraint: Over what timeframe will you achieve your goal? Behavior change takes time, and that period may be weeks or months, depending on your desired outcome. 

Get a baseline of your current health status

It's essential to set a baseline (where are you right now?) for your goals. Tools like activity trackers or blood testing can provide objective metrics for this phase. Once you have a baseline, you can begin planning to reach your goals. 

Wearable devices can provide information on sleep, movement, and heart rate. Data from wearables can help you set goals to optimize your health. For example, suppose your goal is to increase movement throughout the day. In that case, a wearable activity tracker can provide data on your baseline activity status and act as a tool to set and monitor measurable goals.

Similarly, a blood test can offer an honest look at your physical health. Blood tests are reliable and repeatable, making them an excellent tool for assessing the effectiveness of lifestyle intervention. Blood analysis can set a baseline, and routinely testing your blood every three to six months can help you monitor your progress, inform adjustments, and set new goals. 

Make a plan

Creating action and coping plans can help you reach your goals. Action plans consider where, when, and how a goal will be implemented. [4] And coping plans provide a strategy for when barriers arise. Action plans help you implement goals while coping plans protect you from abandoning the goals when things don’t go as planned. Action plans should be tailored to your health goals, current health status, and lifestyle. 

Consider what tools you need to follow through on your goal and achieve the where, when, and how. For example, if your goal is to improve aerobic fitness, using a wearable fitness tracker that monitors resting heart rate (RHR) may be beneficial. RHR can act as a proxy for assessing VO2 max (a measurement of aerobic fitness), as the two metrics are highly correlated. [5] And for more tools to help create your plan and monitor progress, InsideTracker can integrate with your fitness tracker (Garmin smartwatches, Apple Watches and Fitbits) to provide recommendations for your optimal RHR zone. 

Implement changes

Small, incremental changes are the keys to success. If your goal is to improve sleep, you may start by going to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual and gradually increasing that time until you reach your desired bedtime. If additional changes are warranted, a blood test may show that you should consider supplementing with magnesium or vitamin D, as these two nutrients may improve sleep when levels are suboptimal. [6,7] 

Establish healthy habits

Writing down your goal and specific plan for where, when, and how you’ll achieve it is the first step in establishing healthy habits. But other methods—such as modifying your environment and implementing habit stacking (a technique that uses pre-existing habits to help incorporate new ones into your routine)—can also be beneficial for establishing healthy habits.

Set up your environment to be conducive to achieving your health goals. For example, if you want to eat more fruits and vegetables, keep your refrigerator stocked with these items prepared and ready to eat. And leaving fruits and vegetables visible in plain sight and at eye level can further increase your consumption of these foods. Create a space where the default option supports your health goal. 

Habit stacking is a form of implementation intention (a strategy that encourages making a plan ahead of time that details when and how to act). [8] If your goal is to increase fruits and vegetables, then an example of habit stacking for this situation would be ensuring that every meal you make has a vegetable or fruit on the plate. Incorporating habit stacking can help establish a new routine to support your health optimization goals.

Evaluate progress

Throughout your journey to optimize health, it is essential to evaluate progress and make any adjustments needed so you can feel and be at your best. Subjective measurements—such as energy level or how you feel—can be helpful indicators of your progress towards optimizing health. But tracking data—such as heart rate, the amount and type of fruits and vegetables consumed, steps, and sleep, among others—can provide more concrete information and allow you to notice trends. And longevity technology can help with this. 

Optimizing your health with InsideTracker

InsideTracker’s personalized health analysis is designed to walk you through each of the steps outlined above. 

  1. blood test establishes your baseline.
  2. DNA + fitness tracker insights provide more context to those results and your current health state.
  3. Those results inform what steps will most benefit your goals, such as foods to eat, supplements to take, ways to combat stress, sleep hygiene recommendations. 
  4. Routine recalibration through regular blood tests and fitness tracking data lets you evaluate your progress and make adjustments accordingly.

According to InsideTracker’s VP of Science and Artificial Intelligence Dr. Renee Deehan, 

Our goal is to help individuals increase their lifespan and optimize their healthspan. And we do that by combining data about your personalized health state and where you are from a health perspective at a given point in time, together with [the] knowledge that’s been gained from thousands of peer-reviewed scientific publications, and then all of that is then filtered through the lens of these experts that have expertise in nutrition, physiology, etc. to make recommendations specific to you.” 

Give yourself time to see results

Change happens over time, and you may not notice significant results as soon as you think. For example, it may take around three months to see significant changes in some blood biomarkers. Therefore, monitoring trends in your health data is important so that you can note any subtle shifts in health status over time.  

Successfully optimizing your health requires developing and maintaining healthy habits and adjusting your plan based on feedback from wearables or blood work. And ensure you have a solid action plan to help keep you on the path toward achieving your health goals.

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[1] https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001921.htm  [2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9330198/ [3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19237435/ [4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6796229/ [5] https://heart.bmj.com/content/99/12/882.full [6] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23853635 [7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32156230/ [8] Peter Gollwitzer and Paschal Sheeran, “Implementation Intentions and Goal Achievement: A Meta‐Analysis of Effects and Processes,” Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 38 (2006): 69–119