What is a Biohacker Anyway?

What is Biohacking? Do I even biohack bro?

A selection of my supplement routine circa July 2019

A selection of my supplement routine circa July 2019

I’ve been loosely referring to myself as a ‘biohacker’ for a little over a year now. It’s a term that I’d adapted from my own interest into human longevity, and what I believe is an upcoming step-change in how long human beings will be able to lead healthy lives.

But it wasn’t until I came across this YouTube video that featured a discussion between the two authors of The Biohacker’s Handbook (read more), Dr. Olli Sovijärvi and Teemu Arina, where at ~28:45 into the interview video, they discussed the definition of ‘biohacking’

Biohacking as Synonymous with Preventative Health

“I would use biohacking almost as a synonym for preventative healthcare” says Dr. Sovijärvi “At some point, ‘biohacking’ as a term might not be as relevant… the preventative healthcare system is just rising”

This really got me much more interested in the concept of being a biohacker and really broadened the definition of this term into an area that I really cared about. My initial impressions of the term ‘biohacking’ used to draw out cognitive constructs of… let’s call them the more ‘creative’ types of humans who implant electronics or RFID chips beneath their skin or modify their genome by injecting themselves with CRISPR. I’m not passing any judgment on those folks whatsoever - but I’m interested in a wider appeal with my sphere of influence. Something that my father or neighbour or peer can find interesting and accessible.

This conversation between two of the earlier members of the biohacking movement (who are now in their 5th year of organising the Biohacker Summit) and authors on one of the most popular books on the topic, offers us that broader, more widely relevant definition.

Perhaps we can even look to their book’s website, where ‘biohacking’ is even further defined in their landing page text:



Biohacker’s Handbook weaves together novel perspectives on technology, nature and self-development.

A biohacker sees his or her body as a complex system that can be probed, analyzed, understood, and put under the test.

Such controlled experimentation (i.e. biohacking) can be used to pursue self-development and deeper self-understanding

Now we’ve expanded the territory even further. A biohacker respects the complexity of biology, particularly that manifested in the human being, where our metaphysical elements of the mind & self-awareness are arguably as equally powerful as the physical systems that drive the body. And respects that given this complexity, that experimentation, including the collection of data, outcomes, forming of hypotheses, is fundamental to the processes of biohacking.

And let’s not skip over the last part - that all of these actions are in pursuit of deeper self-understanding and self-development. I like to think of this process within myself as a continual optimisation of my overall ‘well-being’ (more on that in the future).

So, am I a biohacker?

I routinely collect biometric data (blood glucose, blood pressure, blood ketones, heart-rate), I run experiments upon myself in the pursuit of deeper self-understanding (eating a ketogenic diet for a year in 2018, fasting for 3-5x days per month in 2019) and I engage with technologies that are best classified as ‘preventative healthcare’ - look no further than my visit to the Health Nucleus in May 2018. Each day, I take approximately 30 supplements, collect increasing amounts of biometric data, and routinely partake in high-intensity interval and strength exercise to stimulate my mitochondria and up-regulate my glucose metabolism…. and that’s jus the start!

So, would I call myself a biohacker?

Hell yes I would. And I do. Welcome to my biohacking journey!

Cardiac Health - Straight to the heart of the issue

When it comes to listing your vital organs - those needed most for your overall well-being and the joy of being alive, the heart comes up at the top of the list (along with your brain, liver, kidneys…). So it’s no surprise that a key part of my longevity journey is keeping my heart at the top of its game.

In my amazing visit to the Health Nucleus in San Diego in May 2018, there was a distinct focus on checking in on heart-health, and the overall wellness of my cardiovascular system.

EKG

My cardiac health assessment at the Health Nucleus started with an EKG. Now, this is nothing special, as EKGs are exceptionally common, have been available for decades and are very low cost to run. BUT - being a healthy 32 year old, I had never had one of these tests before. So it was a great data point!

EKG Data.png

An EKG is short for ‘electrocardiogram’ and is used to check for signs of heart disease. This is completed by checking the electrical activity of the heart by attaching several small sticky electrode pads to your arms, chest and legs.

The EKG provides the following information:

  • Analysis of blood flow to your heart muscle

  • The electrical signals of heart rhythm

  • A first line of detection for abnormalities

  • Detect electrolyte imbalances


Mine was completely normal and another ‘tick’ on the whole-body wellness list!

MRI Scans of the Heart

As I explained in my previous blog post on my full-body MRI - MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. A heart or cardiac MRI looks into the structures of the heart and its neighbouring blood vessels in great detail.

A Heart/Cardiac MRI is used to diagnose/check for:

  • early signs of heart disease

  • assess the the heart for any signs of damage

  • detect any imminent heart failure or defects

  • assess inflammation of the membrane lining the heart


    So in short, this is a very comprehensive assessment in and of itself. In fact, in the results I share below, you can see the level of detail in which my heart health was assessed. I passed with flying colours. I was even given a nice baseline for my heart volumes & size prior to kicking off a lifetime commitment to cardio exercise (but that’s a story for another day ☺️).

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MRI data for the heart

The heart in motion. Measurements of volumes and analysis of each of the heart regions.

Heart-rate Monitoring

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Wearing the Zio

Two weeks of detailed heart-rate data, under all conditions - exercise, rest, day-to-day activity. Including tracked events where I pushed a button for closer inspection in the report.

Heart-rate is one of my favourite data points for tracking my own fitness and well-being. It is easy to measure through many different means, including some of my favourite wearable technologies (I promise to write on that topic in the future!). As a part of my Health Nucleus visit, I was sent away with a small stick-on device called a ‘Zio’ that I wore for two weeks.

The Zio watched my heart-rate in great detail, unceasingly for these two weeks and included the ability for me to track events of interest by clicking on the device.

Once again, the reporting data confirmed my overall wellness and did not flag anything of concern. Moreover, I was able to ‘click’ the button on a few events where I noticed my heart-rate seemed to pick-up and beat hard after lying down in my bed. I’d actually noticed these events for most of my adult life, and as most folks, had passing concern about what that indicated about my heart/body health. Now those events have been analysed in detail & I know they have no underlying heart driven worries. At the end of it all, I can certainly say it feels damn good to know with certainty that my heart is healthy!

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Zio IRhythm - data sample

‘Black dots’ were regions where I clicked the button for closer inspection. These were events where I noticed my heart-rate seeming to pick-up, or be more noticeable after lying down in my bed. I’d noticed these my whole life - now I know they have no underlying heart driven worries and can rest easy :)

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Zio IRhythm overall report after two weeks

175bpm during an intense workout. 52 bpm minimum recorded during the overnight. A solid assessment.

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