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Understanding your body's biomarkers

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Some days you’re just in the zone. Your mind’s sharp. Your focus is clear. Your body’s never felt better.

What if you could feel that way whenever you wanted?

The key might be understanding the numbers that live within your body, called biomarkers. There’s an endless amount of data within your body that can be measured, from basics such as heart rate and glucose levels to more complicated things, such as hormones and enzymes.

A partnership between The Ohio State University and military researchers could be the first step in really understanding how your body’s biomarkers work, and how anyone can use that information to make better decisions about his or her health.

“Everybody has parts of their day or events during their week when they would really like to be at their very best,” said John Corrigan, a researcher with The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Medical researchers are partnering with Ohio State’s Department of Athletics and researchers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton to study biomarkers in patients, service members and athletes.

Coaches already are using the information to improve athlete performance and recovery. The Air Force hopes to use the data to improve the performance of troops in battle. Long term, researchers hope to find trends that can be applied to everyone from amateur athletes to workers on the job.

Say you’re thinking about hitting the gym after work. Someday, a watch could analyze your body’s biomarkers in an instant and reveal whether you have sufficiently recovered from yesterday’s activities to work out today.

What if a surgeon could tell in seconds, based on her own biological data, whether her brain and body are in the optimal state to operate on a patient? A truck driver could look at his smartphone to see whether his body and mind are in optimal condition before a long drive.

Researchers believe one key is to understand how biomarkers impact not only a person’s body, but also how they affect his brain. In other words: Can certain biomarkers in the body be tied directly to memory, focus, attention or concentration?

Take a look at the high-tech ways that Ohio State and military researchers are collecting biomarker data.

“We used to think that in our day-to-day activities, the brain pretty much just took care of itself,” Corrigan said. “Now we are discovering there are ways to manage ourselves to optimize brain health.”

Corrigan said if we can understand this brain-body connection, we can make adjustments in our physical life — such as how we sleep or exercise — to enhance our mental health.

Doctors even see a time when certain biomarkers could be used to predict diseases such as dementia or Parkinson’s. Researchers say those answers could be years away, but the possibilities — just like the numbers — are endless.