Want to keep track of your health but aren’t sure where to start? Feeling tired, overwhelmed, or just not as healthy as you should be? These essential blood tests will give you a good idea of where you stand with your overall health and where you can improve. And even if you are feeling healthy, these tests will let you peek under the hood and make sure everything is running well. Read on to find out which 10 essential blood tests everyone should be getting.
Why Regular Lab Testing Is A Smart Idea
Everyone wants to be healthy. When you are healthy, you feel great! And you want to make sure you feel great most of the time – which is probably why you are reading this article. An important way to make sure you stay healthy is to get regular lab tests. That’s because, without lab tests, it is hard to know exactly what is going on in our bodies.
When we are not feeling well, there is only so much we can conclude based on the symptoms we have. More importantly, many serious health problems can be without any symptoms for years before they become recognizable. That is why doctors rely on blood tests to find out what’s going on in our bodies. And so should you!
Taking blood tests on a yearly basis is one of the best steps adults (those of us over 25) can take to maximize well-being and prevent serious diseases. Blood tests can warn you before your health takes a turn for the worse. You can identify and address many issues before they become more serious, such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease or other chronic illnesses that plague our modern society. This proactive approach to health could add years to your life, even decades in some cases.
Regular lab testing can also take you a step further than just disease prevention. Taking these tests annually will help you stay on top of your game and maximize the quality of your life. You can use them to improve your mood, libido, cognitive function, and overall energy levels.
Is your doctor already ordering these as a part of your annual check-up? Great – you are on track! For those of us who aren’t as lucky, let this article serve as a little nudge to incorporate regular lab tests into our busy lives. And if you have chronic health issues, these lab tests are a great place to start looking for their root causes.
10 Essential Blood Tests Everyone Should Be Getting Regularly
1) CBC (Complete Blood Count)
Complete blood count (CBC) is one of the most commonly ordered tests, and for good reason. Your blood cells can tell you a lot about your health! CBC lets you know when you have issues with infections or inflammation, but it will also tell you when your diet is not balanced. When you are missing micronutrients, your body won’t be able to produce blood cells normally.
It is important to keep track of your CBC values because many of them have a strong impact on your quality of life and longevity. A high hemoglobin level, for example, may be increasing your blood pressure and your risk of blood clots, while a low white blood cell count makes you an easy target for infections.
2) CMP (Comprehensive Metabolic Panel)
As the title suggests, a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) is a group of blood tests. A CMP lets you know how healthy your liver and kidneys are. It will also tell you if there are disturbances in your blood sugar levels, protein levels, and the overall acid/base balance in your body.
You may know this panel well if you have chronic health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, liver, or kidney damage. A CMP is often used to monitor disease progression.
If you don’t have these tests available as a panel (some labs and countries don’t) you can also take them individually. A CMP is comprised of 14 biomarkers: glucose, calcium, albumin, protein, sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate (carbon dioxide), AST, ALT, ALP, bilirubin, BUN (urea), and creatinine.
3) Lipid Panel (Cholesterol and Triglycerides)
A lipid panel measures your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. These markers are strongly linked to heart disease. To keep things simple, you want to make sure that your good cholesterol (HDL) is high and your bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides are low.
These tests are a bit controversial, and if you are at a higher risk of heart disease you will probably want to keep track of more than just these markers (check tests such as ApoB, Lp(a), and LDL particles). But for most, a routine lipid panel is a great place to start taking care of your heart health!
While a blood glucose test shows your current glucose levels, HbA1c will tell you your average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months. If you are healthy, you should check it at least once a year, while people with diabetes may want to do it as often as 4 times a year.
Apart from being a risk factor for diabetes, high HbA1c levels (even when still in the normal range) increase your risk of heart disease and all-cause mortality. This is one of those markers that you definitely want to keep in the optimal range.
Would you like to know more about optimal ranges? Check out Lab Test Analyzer.
C-reactive protein (CRP) is a protein that fights bacteria and viruses and increases in response to infection. But it also increases in response to chronic stress. You will have higher CRP levels if you are overweight, have high blood pressure, have diabetes, smoke, have periodontal (gum) disease, don’t exercise, and/or are exposed to emotional stress.
CRP can also predict your risk of heart disease. When both CRP and cholesterol levels are high, your overall risk of heart disease increases up to 9-fold ! The good news is that there are many things you can do to lower your CRP levels, which is why this is one of the lab tests worth keeping track of.
6) Vitamin D (25-Hydroxy Vitamin D)
Why test your vitamin D levels? Well, because vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world, and is especially common in the US. Vitamin D can get depleted if you haven’t been leading the healthiest lifestyle or you are suffering from chronic health issues. Do you experience fatigue, low back pain, muscle aches, digestive problems, obesity, mood swings, and weakened immunity? These are all symptoms of vitamin D deficiency!
You can get vitamin D from sun exposure, certain foods, or from supplements. But be careful when supplementing, as too much will cause vitamin D toxicity. For these reasons, it’s a great idea to regularly monitor your vitamin D levels.
Iron deficiency is another common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause of anemia. According to both the WHO and CDC, iron deficiency affects up to 60 – 80% of the world’s population. On the other hand, some chronic diseases can cause iron overload, which is extremely toxic to our bodies.
That’s why you should occasionally test your iron levels, whether it’s blood iron or ferritin (which reflects your body’s iron stores).
Homocysteine is important to track for several reasons. First, it can tell you if you are folate- or vitamin B12-deficient. Second, high levels increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, depression, dementia, and osteoporosis. Highly elevated homocysteine levels may increase your risk of a heart attack over a five-year period by threefold !
9) Uric acid
Uric acid is a tricky one. Too much uric acid causes kidney stones and gout and increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. So the lower the better, right? Not quite. Uric acid is also a natural antioxidant – it makes up to 60% of the blood’s antioxidant capacity. Also, studies show it may protect the brain from diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. That’s why you want to keep uric acid in a narrow optimal range.
10) Thyroid hormones (TSH)
Thyroid hormones control the rate of your metabolism. They affect your cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity. An underactive or overactive thyroid can cause issues with weight, energy levels, and mood.
TSH is one of the most commonly tested markers to check thyroid function. A higher-than-normal level of TSH could mean your thyroid is underactive (hypothyroidism), while a lower-than-normal level could mean it’s overactive (hyperthyroidism). Alternatively, you can take a whole thyroid panel, containing a combination of these biomarkers: TSH, total or free T4, total or free T3, T3 uptake, and free T4 Index.
After You’ve Got Your Labs…
LabTestAnalyzer helps you make sense of your lab results. It informs you which labs are not in the optimal range and gives you guidance about how to get them to optimal. It also allows you to track your labs over time. No need to do thousands of hours of research on what to make of your lab tests.
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