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5 Blood Tests to Get at Your Next Doctor's Appointment

Laura Kunces, PhD, RD

If you were to google, "how often should I see a doctor?" the internet may suggest as a "generally healthy" adult, you only need to see one every 1-3 years. With advice like this, many of us may be putting our health on the back burner. What is healthy? How do you know if you are healthy if you can't feel high cholesterol? Can you feel your red blood cell count, size, shape, and distribution?  A lot can change in three years. Regular and frequent lab work can help you understand if you are healthy, and many healthcare professionals would agree it should be done yearly if not more often. 

According to the CDC, as a nation that spends trillions of dollars on healthcare, 75% of our spending is on conditions that are preventable with early preventive care. This question should result in advice that says, "See a doctor every year, get regular lab work done!" And then use at-home blood, saliva, microbiome, or another physical metric testing between visits. A preventative mindset, with bi-yearly or more assessments, can result in cost savings for you and employers and add many healthy years to our lifespans. 

This year, challenge yourself to get your preventive health visits in. Get your teeth cleaned, your eyes and hearing checked, monitor your weight and blood pressure with smart equipment, and get lab work drawn. Your future self will thank you.

Here is a list of blood biomarkers you should ask your doctor to check this year:

  1. A Comprehensive Metabolic Panel

As the name states, it's a relatively vast panel of biomarkers that provides information about your body's chemical balance and metabolism. It includes:

  • A fasted glucose-- a type of sugar that circulates in your bloodstream either from foods you eat or your body can make it. It provides a main source of energy to cells and muscles. 
  • Calcium--an essential mineral for the proper functioning of your nerves, muscles, and heart.
  • Sodium, potassium, carbon dioxide, and chloride-- often described as electrolytes, these minerals help maintain fluid balance and hydration in your body. An imbalance in any one of these can directly impact blood pressure, cause dizziness, reduce energy and exercise capability, and more.
  • Albumin-- a protein made in the liver that carries important hormones and fatty acids through your blood.
  • Total protein-- a measure of the total amount of protein in the blood, which tends to decrease naturally as you age.
  • ALP (alkaline phosphatase), ALT (alanine transaminase), and AST (aspartate aminotransferase) are best known as liver function enzymes. The liver needs to function at its best to produce some of the other blood constituents. 
  • Bilirubin is a waste product made by the liver. 
  • BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and Creatinine, waste products removed from your blood by your kidneys.

  1. Complete Blood Count (CBC) with Differential

A CBC test will measure the total number of white blood cells in your body, but a CBC with differential (sometimes abbreviated just CBC w/diff) will also give you the number of each of the five different types of white blood cells you have. It also measures red blood cells too. 

A CBC with diff can tell you a lot about your immune system, lymphatic system, and your ability to carry oxygen and nutrients around your body. Some notable blood biomarkers from a CBC with diff include:

  • White blood cell count is a count of the total white blood cells. From there, its five types of white blood cells are counted: neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils, and basophils. 
  • Platelet count and mean platelet volume (MPV) will tell you the number and size of platelets, cells involved in the blood clotting process. 
  • Red blood cell count is a measure of the red cells. Hematocrit and hemoglobin describe the percentage of your total blood volume that consists of red blood cells and the amount of the oxygen-carrying protein in the blood, respectively. 
  • Mean corpuscular volume (MCV) provides a measure of the average red blood cell size.
  • Mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH) calculates the average amount of hemoglobin inside your red blood cells.
  • Red cell distribution width (RDW) looks at the variation in the size of your red blood cells.

  1. Lipid Panel or Cholesterol Panel

Lipids are a group of fats and fat-like substances that are important constituents of cells and sources of energy. There are two main lipids: cholesterol and triglycerides. They are transported in the blood connected to proteins, and are referred to as lipoproteins, and classified based on their density.  

A cholesterol panel can tell you a lot about your risk for cardiovascular disease, but also how the foods you eat and the exercise (or lack thereof) is helping your body maintain a healthy cholesterol level. Heredity or family genes can play a role in elevated lipid levels. Typically, this is a fasted blood test-- meaning no food or drink for 10-12 hours before, except plenty of water. 

From this test, you will learn:

  • Total cholesterol is a measure of all the lipoprotein particles in your blood. 
  • HDL or high-density lipoprotein, a measure you want to be high because it's considered the "good" cholesterol. Exercise can help increase this value as it naturally declines with age. 
  • LDL or low-density lipoprotein, a measure you want to be low because it's considered the "bad" cholesterol. It slowly creeps up with age and can be influenced by diet or genetics. 
  • Triglycerides are a form of fat and a source of energy for the body that move from blood to tissue and back depending on your energy state. Very high levels are caused by poor diet and lifestyle habits. 

  1. DHEA-s (s stands for sulfate)

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) isn't a panel, but a hormone. DHEA-s is the most abundant hormone in the body. Since its responsible for producing other sex hormones in both men and women, like testosterone and estrogen, it can influence libido, body composition, fertility, immune system, and more. It naturally decreases with age and should be tracked over your lifetime for the best understanding of how it's affecting you. 

  1. Hemoglobin A1c

Hemoglobin A1c, also referred to as A1c or glycated hemoglobin, is a measure of hemoglobin that has glucose attached. Hemoglobin (red blood cells) have a lifespan of about 90 days, and it provides a decent average of the amount of sugar in your system over that time. It's reported in a percent, and a higher percent can indicate to your doctor that you are not processing the sugar you're eating either because you are not producing enough insulin or consuming too much. Your doctor would use this biomarker in their diagnosis of diabetes. 

Together, these blood values can give you a close assessment of your biological age using Agebio by Onegevity. Agebio utilizes conventional blood biomarkers typically assessed year to year for clinical reasons. When input into the Onegevity health intelligence system, blood biomarkers can tell you a lot more than their descriptions above. 

Agebio uses a research-validated, statistical algorithm to evaluate biological age. Agebio can help you view these results in a new light—beyond what they individually do physiologically. What's interesting is that even small slight changes in blood biomarkers year to year can tell you a lot about your aging process and your risk for age-related conditions. You and your doctor can discuss if they are within a normal range or abnormal. Still, Agebio can help you understand if you are where you should be-- for someone your age, demographic, weight, and lifestyle, and how to make your insides function like someone chronologically younger than you.