Everyone wants to be healthy but few of us recognize the underlying causes of our suboptimal health. A proper tune up requires that we first do the right blood tests. But when is the last time we took the time to get a comprehensive wellness evaluation?
Blood tests are often the best and quickest way to assess our health and to help us stay motivated. Even the healthiest among us have "chinks in our armor" and can benefit from these objective lab tests. There are many tests available to those looking for a health tune up. Here are five of the tests that I usually recommend.
1) Vitamin D testing may be the single most important part of a health tune up
Studies estimate that 35% of all cancers could be eliminated if we optimized our blood level of Vitamin D. Low levels greatly increase our risk of infections, pneumonia, autoimmune disease, neurologic and mental health problems. I have tested every one of my patients in the past 10 years and have found only four that did not need to supplement at least 4,000 iu daily.
2) Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT) with Insulin, Cortisol, and A1C testing
The 2-hr GTT is the best test to catch diabetes or prediabetes early. Nearly 50% of us between the ages of 40 and 59 already have diabetes or prediabetes. Since most of us are completely unaware of this, it makes having high blood sugars one of the most under diagnosed health problems in America. A simple fasting blood sugar is not adequate since it's the after meal blood sugars that account for the majority of risk.
A 4-hr GTT would help determine adrenal fatigue and low blood sugar tendencies. These can be easily treated once properly understood. After over 20 years of practice I believe that this is the second most important part of the "health tune up." Abnormal GTT or insulin levels are a key cause of high blood pressure, plaque buildup, weight gain, infertility, headaches as well as breast, prostate and colon cancers.
3) A Functional Thyroid Panel includes TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Thyroid Antibodies, and Reverse T3
These tests give integrated and functional medicine doctors clues about our metabolism and the health of every organ system in our body. Improperly evaluated, poor thyroid function can result in dry skin, fatigue, unhealthy nails, cold feet or hands, headaches, depression, anxiety, insomnia, ADHD, allergies, chronic infections, weight gain, constipation, high blood pressure, menstrual problems, and among other problems a much higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
It is also important to recognize that normal labs don't necessarily mean that there is optimal thyroid function. Fortunately there are natural approaches to treat thyroid effectively. I personally resolved a 25 year battle with toenail fungus and 15 years of cold feet (both signs of poor circulation) when I took time to properly address my thyroid.
4) Cardiac CRP is a blood test that measures the level of inflammation throughout your body
Inflammation literally turns on genes that promote diabetes, cancer, heart disease and autoimmune conditions. Once discovered, inflammation can be properly addressed with natural strategies.
5) The VAP Cholesterol Test provides a much more comprehensive evaluation of heart attack and stoke risk than the regular Lipid/Cholesterol Profile
The VAP test actually measures LDL and other cholesterol particles. It also tests for the sticky type of LDL called Lp(a), and the LDL density and particle size - both far more important risk factors for plaque formation than the regular tests which only estimate the amounts of cholesterol. This also relates to erectile dysfunction, heart attacks, strokes and circulation to every organ.
There are specific supplements, diet protocols and other natural strategies available at lifestyle medicine clinics to help control and even reverse risk factors associated with your "tune up". Once baseline tests are done it is important that proper strategies be put in place to address the various causes of the health problems identified.
Whether my patients are involved in the Optimal Brain Wellness series, the Diabetes Management Clinic, Detox Program, or the Total Wellness series, I generally recommend that any abnormal baseline labs be repeated at five and then 10 weeks into each wellness program. The good news is that the above lab tests and tune up can give us the direction we need to make 2013 a year of health and healing.
Most of us have a huge deductible or are no longer willing to let an insurance plan dictate what tests we can have done. One of the best options is to work with a clinic that has discount contracts with local labs. For instance, at our clinic, patients get a 80% discount on all labs. Likewise, I use the same discount service for all labs done for my family. That way I get exactly what I need and at a discount that is better than what my insurance would charges me.
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