Information about your health is so important, yet so hard to track down. If you don’t keep up with your own health data (through blood work and other tests), how can you know if you’re truly improving yourself?
This guide will walk you through the 5 tests that will help you understand exactly what’s happening inside your body—no matter what stage of life you’re in!
How Do You Know If Something Is Wrong With Your Health?
Do you have high cholesterol? Are you at risk for heart disease? Do you have diabetes? Can you reduce your chances of getting cancer by eating a certain way or taking certain supplements? There are lots of ways that we can figure out what is happening inside our bodies.
Doctors, for example, rely on blood tests. But there are other types of tests that we can do ourselves or at home—for an even more precise assessment of our health and wellness.
Here’s a quick rundown: Baseline Blood Assessments: These tests include what many people know as routine blood work—checking levels of creatinine, kidney function, and hemoglobin and counting red and white blood cells.
5 Blood Assessments To Rule Them All
- CBC (click to read: the ultimate CBC cheat sheet)
- Lipid & Cortisol (10 foods that lower your cholesterol)
- HS-CRP (What it is and why it critical)
- Cortisol (Why does it flucate during the day?)
- Thyroid (Are you struggling from an under or overactive Thyroid?)
The three tests your doctor should order (and when) will vary based on your age, gender, and medical history.
Most doctors will run a general test called a CBC (complete blood count) that checks white and red blood cell counts; it is a simple baseline measure of overall health.
In addition, consider checking hemoglobin and hematocrit levels to determine if you have anemia or dehydration; if you notice fatigue or are otherwise feeling weak, these can be signs that something is wrong. This type of test is usually called a comprehensive metabolic panel.
Finally, look into getting some basic biochemistry measures like cholesterol and triglyceride levels done; these numbers provide clues as to how well your body is metabolizing food. If you’re pre-diabetic or prediabetic, having regular testing may help you catch conditions early and take steps to reverse them before they develop further.
Blood test values change and are variable. Such as cortisol which fluctuates significantly throughout the day. Blood tests, such as some of those above, require significant lab processing and analysis that can take time to complete.
Traditionally, it has been expensive to test multiple times per year to see if a pattern or trend is existing.
However, Lab Me is the first to offer an at-home CBC blood test without going to the doctor for a prescription first.
Your doctor probably checks your cholesterol levels, which indicates whether you have too much fat and cholesterol in your blood. It can also signal issues with other conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.
For example, someone with diabetes may have high cholesterol because of insulin resistance, explains Dr. Katz. In that case, he says, their LDL would be way up but their HDL (the good form of cholesterol) would be even higher.
Other potential warning signs include unexplained weight loss, swelling in your legs or abdomen or a family history of heart disease.
It’s also a good idea to regularly test your blood glucose and hemoglobin A1C levels. These numbers can indicate how well you’re managing your diabetes.
Your doctor may also recommend a fasting plasma glucose test, which reveals if you have diabetes and is particularly useful if you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
As part of your basic health evaluation, your doctor will most likely want regular cholesterol and lipid tests, too. There is no reason that healthy adults shouldn’t be tested regularly for these common markers.
When you hear the word cholesterol, your first thought probably isn’t hs-CRP. But that should be because, when it comes to figuring out what is happening inside your body, knowing your hs-CRP levels is just as important as knowing your cholesterol numbers. As it turns out, high levels of hs-CRP have been linked with higher chances of experiencing a heart attack or stroke—even if other factors like cholesterol are in check. HS-CRP stands for high sensitivity C-reactive protein, and it can offer up some pretty valuable information about what is happening inside our bodies.
It may seem strange to call a test high sensitivity, but unlike traditional blood tests where doctors need enough samples to identify one molecule of CRP per milliliter of blood (giving them an average reading), lab technicians using a high sensitivity CRP test only need enough blood to detect one molecule per liter of blood (giving them much more precise measurements).
These highly sensitive tests can help physicians determine what level they should set as an acceptable marker (although many experts recommend shooting for 0.0 mg/dl). For example, studies have shown that people who started treatment at 4.0 mg/dl had a lower chance of survival than those whose levels started below 2.0 mg/dl.
So how do you know if your CRP levels are too high?
One simple way is to schedule a visit with your doctor so he or she can give you a baseline assessment and then take periodic readings over time. If you’re healthy, here’s what you want to see: Total Cholesterol: 180-199 mg/dl HDL: >40 mg/dl LDL: 100-129 mg/dl Triglycerides: 60-149 mg/dl hs-CRP: <2.00mg/l If cholesterol isn’t part of your basic health checkup, it should be; after all, treating high cholesterol often means managing other risk factors for heart disease and strokes like diabetes and obesity—and in turn lowering your hs-CRP levels.
One of your body’s stress hormones, Cortisol plays a major role in regulating metabolism, blood sugar and your immune system. When you’re under a lot of stress, it increases production of Cortisol to help your body deal with whatever is bothering you. Unfortunately, when you have elevated levels of Cortisol on a daily basis over time (as is often seen in today’s stressful world), it causes wear and tear on tissues like cartilage and bones.
If you are suffering from chronic joint pain, getting a baseline Cortisol test is an important first step in figuring out if it is causing your pain. If your doctor finds that your Cortisol levels are higher than normal, they may recommend changing your diet or lifestyle and/or referring you to a specialist like an endocrinologist or rheumatologist.
Or, they may just tell you that stress reduction will help lower it.
Lipid Panel (incl LDL and HDL)
These are referred to as blood lipids, and they represent a panel of important markers that can predict one’s risk for heart disease. Doctors will usually want to see your LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol) within certain ranges.
If you’re not sure what your lipid numbers are, it’s a good idea to get them checked out regularly with a standard blood test called a lipid panel. It’s an easy way to take stock of how well your diet is working for you in relation to heart health.
1. TC or Total Cholesterol – Desirable: below 200 mg/dL; borderline high risk: 200-239 mg/dL; high risk: above 240 mg/dL
2. LDL or Bad Cholesterol – Desirable: below 100 mg/dL; borderline high risk: 100-129 mg/dL; high risk: above 130 mg/ dL
3. HDL or Good Cholesterol – Desirable: above 60 mg/dL; borderline high risk: 40-59 mg/dL; high risk: below 40 mg/ dL
4. Triglycerides (TG) -Desirable less than 150mg/dl, at which point it’s more specifically called normal fasting serum triglyceride level
5. Fasting blood sugar – 80-130 mg/dL
6. Total blood cholesterol/HDL ratio – Desirable below 3.0; borderline high risk: 3.0-4.2; high risk: above 4.2
7. Glucose tolerance test if there is evidence of diabetes or metabolic syndrome
You can test just your lipids and GGT liver marker here or you can capture everything using the Lab Me Executive test. Lab Me offers a standard Executive test in addition to a Female Executive and Male Executive test. Click either to learn more.
Vitamin D Testing
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that we obtain from our diet, or through exposure to sunlight. It’s also one of two ways for us to get calcium into our bodies; most of us know about Vitamin D because of its crucial role in promoting bone health, but it can also have an impact on our heart and immune systems.
As many as 41 percent of Americans don’t get enough Vitamin D, so it’s important to ask your doctor whether you should be tested.
While there are numerous factors that influence how much vitamin D you need – including your genetics, skin tone, and sun exposure –the Institute of Medicine says adults between 19 and 70 should maintain blood levels between 20 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter) and 50 ng/ml year-round.
Thyroid Function – TSH, Free T4, Reverse T3 & TPO antibodies
We need to understand how your thyroid is functioning and make sure it is working at its optimal level. Most patients I see are not aware that their thyroid has been underactive or overactive for some time, which can have drastic effects on their overall health.
If you have symptoms of hypothyroidism, then I recommend having your TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) checked as well as Free T4 and Reverse T3 levels. The same applies if you’re feeling fatigued or stressed out; it could be that your levels are fluctuating because of an imbalanced gut microbiome or hormonal imbalance—both of which can easily be assessed through a blood test.
Hypothyroidism is especially common in women in peri-menopause as estrogen dominance increases TSH levels by blocking estrogen receptors in your thyroid.
In either case, changing how you eat and remove toxins from your body can quickly rebalance these hormones naturally.
If you don’t want to wait until menopause to start boosting up energy, there are also supplements that act similarly to HRT but without any risks or side effects—and it works fast! For more information about testing click here.
A baseline blood assessment can be a great first step if you’re looking to figure out what is happening inside your body.
The previously mentioned tests will give you a tangible understanding of your health, and make it easier for your doctor to spot any potential problems before they can do serious damage. If you have health concerns or would like some reassurance that everything is okay, consider getting these tests done right away and from the comfort of your own home using Lab Me.
Of course, further investigation with your doctor into what blood tests you should take is highly advised if there are suspected issues with your health.