You get your rest. You practice mindfulness. You watch what you eat and you exercise. That should be enough to ensure your health and well-being along the journey of life, right?
Well, almost right.
There is one more thing you can do that can impact how well you navigate your health: Have your blood tested regularly.
Think of blood tests as scorecards of sorts. They can help you better understand the actual impact your daily health routines are having on your overall well-being. Ensuring you are testing at regular intervals can help you see how your body is changing over time and provides the opportunity to make any course corrections if needed.
Most healthcare providers recommend bloodwork at least once a year, typically around the same time as your annual physical.
But there are several major reasons you may want to have your blood tested more frequently. Certain conditions and situations could warrant additional testing, including:
- Experiencing unusual, lingering symptoms. These might include fatigue, abnormal weight gain or weight loss, new sources of pain or other odd symptoms that don’t make any sense.
- Risk reduction. It’s a good idea to stay on top of any changes in your health to reduce your risk of disease or other complications. Regular blood tests can catch the warning signs of almost any disease early. Many heart, lung, and kidney conditions can be diagnosed using routine blood tests.
- Health optimization. Tracking common blood markers, such as cholesterol, can allow you to adjust your diet or fitness plan to keep you as healthy as possible without having to wonder whether you’re doing the right thing or optimizing your supplement routine.
Four Important Blood Tests
Here are four important blood tests that you may want to consider.
Basic metabolic panel. A BMP checks for levels of certain compounds in the blood, such as:
- carbon dioxide
- blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
Abnormal results may indicate kidney disease, diabetes or hormone imbalances. Your healthcare provider will order follow-up tests if necessary to confirm any of these conditions.
Complete blood count. As the most common blood test, a CBC will be included as part of your annual health exam. This panel evaluates 10 different aspects of how well your white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets are doing.
Imbalances or discrepancies seen on a CBC can indicate:
- nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B6 or B12
- iron deficiency
- bone marrow issues
- tissue inflammation
- heart conditions
If your healthcare provider notices any irregular results, he or she will order follow-up blood tests for further evaluation.
Lipid panel. This collection of blood markers lets you know how your body is managing cholesterol and the transport proteins that carry it along. Cholesterol is a superhero in the body, responsible for making stress hormones, sex hormones and keeping your brain and your cells healthy. Contrary to popular opinion, we actually need plenty of cholesterol to stay healthy. A lipid panel tells you how much cholesterol your body is making (total cholesterol), and how well it is being shuttled through the body on LDLs and HDLs. When it comes to the lipid panel, make sure your healthcare practitioner understands the value and importance of cholesterol before being too quick to recommend a prescription to reduce it.
Thyroid panel. A thyroid panel looks at how well your thyroid is producing its primary hormone, T4, and whether that hormone is being efficiently converted into its active form, T3. In addition to these three blood markers, Reverse T3, T3 Uptake and thyroid antibodies should be ordered to ensure a comprehensive evaluation can be done. As one of the most important glands in the body, your thyroid helps regulate many body functions including mood, energy level and overall metabolism.
Your next step
These important blood tests will help you see how well your diligence and attention to your overall health is paying off. If areas of concern are identified early, you can make plans for addressing them well before there’s an unwelcome crisis.