Discover 13 annual blood tests to reduce future health risks
(NaturalHealth365) A study in Nutrition Journal reveals that a shocking 42 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, which is indispensable for bone health and normal immune function. But, with a simple blood test, this condition could be identified and corrected, thereby warding off a host of potential health problems.
Obviously, annual blood tests are an important tool for finding and identifying deficiencies such as these – along with a host of other hidden diseases and conditions. To learn about the “baker’s dozen” of blood tests that should be performed yearly, read on.
Key annual blood tests that everyone should know about
Together, this trio of tests – you’re about to discover – represents the “Big Kahuna” of blood tests – and they offer a wealth of useful information.
The chemistry panel, also known as a basic metabolic panel, checks blood sugar (glucose) levels, as well as levels and balances of minerals and electrolytes. A knowledgeable doctor can use a chemistry panel to detect diabetes, kidney disease, liver problems, thyroid disorders and even cancer.
The complete blood count, or CBC, is a closer look at the makeup of the blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. This test can show the presence of infection, anemia, cancer and blood and bone marrow conditions.
The lipid panel assesses the level of both healthy and unhealthy fats, such as LDL and HDL cholesterol. These substances, and the balance between them, can affect your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Understanding the fasting insulin test
This test can help diagnose or monitor insulin resistance, which is a classic characteristic of type 2 diabetes.
Even if high insulin hasn’t yet led to diabetes or metabolic syndrome, it is not doing your health any favors. Elevated insulin levels can contribute to an array of undesirable conditions, including high blood pressure, migraine, cognitive decline, atherosclerosis, obesity and cancer.
Insulin resistance can sometimes be addressed with lifestyle changes, such as getting proper exercise and nutrition. If these don’t do the trick, your doctor may prescribe the medication metformin. Natural nutrients – particularly hesperidin, a flavonoid found in citrus fruits – may also be helpful.
What is “Hemoglobin A1C?”
This test measures glucose levels over the past two to three months, and can reveal a long-term problem with glucose control. Remember, high levels of hemoglobin A1c can point to increased risk for heart disease, even when diabetes or metabolic syndrome aren’t present.
This test is also useful if you are currently being treated for diabetes, as it can measure how well the therapy is working.
Do you know all about DHEA?
Sometimes referred to as the “anti-aging hormone,” DHEA is used by the body to make other hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. This natural steroid – with the formidable chemical name of dehydroepiandrosterone – is also important for proper immune function, bone density, stable mood, normal libido and healthy body composition.
As DHEA levels decline with age, it is important to have annual blood tests to look for shortfalls. Lower DHEA levels are associated with depression, as well as with increased odds of experiencing a fatal cardiovascular event.
Fortunately, low DHEA can be treated with oral supplementation.
Attention men: Have you tested for prostate-specific androgen (PSA)?
Prostate cancer is common in men, particularly men over 65 years old. Higher levels of a protein known as prostate-specific androgen can be an indication of prostate cancer – but can also offer clues to the presence of infection, inflammation and prostate enlargement.
PSA tests are quite controversial, with some physicians believing that the risk of misdiagnosis could outweigh the benefits of the test. Men between 55 and 69 years old should discuss the need for PSA screenings with their doctor.
Why your homocysteine levels matter
Elevated levels of this amino acid can truly be “bad news,” with studies showing that it can increase the risk of heart attack, bone fractures, macular degeneration, gallstones and declining cognitive function.
In fact, in one study, people with the highest homocysteine levels had three times the risk of heart attack over a five-year period than those with lower levels – and this was even true for those with no history of heart disease.
Fortunately, you may be able to lower high homocysteine levels with B-complex vitamins, such as B2, B6, B12 and 5-MTFH, the biologically active form of folic acid.
The important of C-reactive protein
C-reactive protein (CRP), another troublemaker, is produced in the liver when tissues in the body are inflamed.
Elevated levels of C-reactive protein are one of the most reliable testaments to inflammation throughout the body, and can serve as a red flag that could indicate heart disease, type 2 diabetes, age-related macular degeneration, IBD and cognitive decline.
If you have elevated C-reactive protein, your doctors may advise cholesterol-lowering medications. But, on the other hand – to reduce inflammation, natural health experts advise nutrients such as fish oil, curcumin from turmeric, magnesium, zinc and vitamin D.
Naturally, it’s best to check with your integrative doctor before supplementing.
What’s the deal with thyroid stimulating hormone?
By identifying irregularities in levels of thyroid stimulating hormone, the TSH test can help uncover disturbances in levels of thyroid function. Common thyroid disorders include hyperthyroidism – overactive thyroid – and hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid.
Your doctor may treat thyroid conditions with synthetic thyroid hormones. But, there are nutrients that can support healthy thyroid function include the minerals selenium and magnesium, vitamins A and B12, the amino acid L-tyrosine and adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha and Korean ginseng root.
As always, ask your doctor about these suggestions.
The “Free and Total Testosterone Test”
Testosterone is produced by men and women alike, although women create smaller amounts. Levels in both sexes can drop with age, causing a variety of troublesome symptoms.
In men, low testosterone can cause diminished libido, erectile dysfunction, decreased muscle mass, lower bone density, depression, trouble concentrating and difficulty sleeping. It also raises the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
In women, low testosterone can cause loss of libido, depression and loss of muscle.
Generally speaking, your doctor should test for both free (testosterone unattached to other proteins) and total (all testosterone in the body) testosterone as part of your annual blood test.
If your annual blood test turns up “low T,” your integrative doctor could provide some suggestions.
What is “Apolipoprotein B100?”
“Apob100” is a constituent of LDL (low density lipoprotein) and VLDL (very low density lipoprotein), two types of cholesterol believed to contribute to artery-clogging atherosclerosis, which raises risk of heart attack and stroke.
While Apob100 is yet another troublemaker in the body, it does provide one useful service: some doctors consider this unhealthy protein to be an even more reliable predictor of heart disease than LDL levels. The good news: you can lower your levels with lifestyle changes such as a better diet and exercise routine.
Have you ever tested your Estradiol and progesterone levels?
These sex hormones are produced by women and men alike, but in much smaller quantities in men. While their main function is reproductive, they play an important role in supporting healthy bone density – especially in postmenopausal women and older men.
Unusually high levels can signal ovarian cysts and ovarian cancer, and can also point to problems with bone health. In addition, tests measuring estradiol and progesterone can also be used in menopausal women to identify the ideal dose of bioidentical progesterone to treat problems that can accompany diminishing hormones, such as sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety and hot flashes.
Don’t forget to test your vitamin D levels
Vitamin D deficiencies (defined as levels under 30 ng/dL) are widespread in the United States. This is unfortunate, as low levels of vitamin D are associated with an array of conditions, including heart disease, autoimmune disease, diabetes and depression.
In fact, recent research has demonstrated that the “sunshine vitamin” can protect against breast cancer and upper respiratory infections. To obtain maximum benefits, natural health experts recommend maintaining optimal levels of 50 to 80 ng/mL. You can raise your levels by supplementing with vitamin D3 – but check first with your integrative doctor.
Why magnesium is a must
Close to two thirds of all adults in the United States have inadequate dietary intake of magnesium. In fact, with people over 71, the incidence rises to a shocking 80 percent!
Magnesium deficiency is linked to high blood pressure, arterial stiffening and atherosclerosis – common triggers for heart disease. As if that weren’t bad enough, low magnesium also contributes to type 2 diabetes, cognitive decline, dementia, and osteoporosis.
In a recent review, the authors noted that the conventionally accepted lab reference range for serum magnesium is “not adequate” for maintaining health – and reported that a person should be in the upper half of this range – in order to avoid magnesium being pulled from bones and tissues.
Magnesium is available in supplementary form. However, consult your integrative doctor before adding magnesium to your health routine.
Simply put, annual blood tests – done properly – can help to “sound the alarm” for risk factors that might trigger disease down the road. But, they can also offer clues to help solve existing quality-of-life issues.
No doubt, these are major health dividends from a simple procedure.
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