Know Your Numbers?
Most of us are obsessively focused on our weight, BMI and other numbers that don’t tell the whole story about our health.
In fact, the numbers you should obsess about are the ones that show how well your body is working. These numbers tell a complex, detailed story about how well your body’s various systems are working together to keep you strong. As a doctor, I see too much emphasis on the wrong numbers. Here are the ones that are really worth your time.
Why You Need Testing
How many times have you felt low on energy? How many times have you visited a doctor because you didn’t feel right but couldn’t put your finger on the reason?
Here’s why you need complete blood testing:
- Pinpoint the physical causes of many illnesses and explain that “not quite right” feeling.
- Figure out the right lifestyle changes you should start making.
- Give you the warning signs of a serious illness while you can still do something to prevent it.
- Monitor how well treatments are working for your condition.
- Rule out genetic conditions.
Pass These Tests for Your Good Health
When was the last time you had a complete lipid panel or complete blood count test? If it’s been a while, you should schedule a complete set of tests at your next doctor’s appointment.
These numbers give you the facts. You’ll know which systems are in good working order and which could use a tune up. They’ll help you keep tabs on your health, prevent diseases and ensure your body is working at peak performance.
I recommend having blood work done once a year. If you’re coping with a chronic illness, you might need more frequent testing.
There’s a reason doctors automatically check your blood pressure every time you go to the emergency room or a clinic. High blood pressure is the most common and most serious sign of illness. It can also point to high levels of stress and anxiety. You need to know if your blood pressure is going up, and you also need to know why.
High blood pressure is an early warning that you need to change your diet and your lifestyle. If you take early action, you may be able to avoid medications and other interventions.
High blood pressure puts you at risk for heart disease, strokes, congestive heart failure, kidney damage, vision loss, erectile dysfunction and peripheral artery disease. Your blood pressure is one of the most important numbers you can know. (1)
Blood sugar testing isn’t just for people with diabetes. More than 90 million Americans are prediabetic, but only 10 million are aware of it. Being prediabetic means you can still reverse the disease before it turns into full-blown, deadly type 2 diabetes. (2)
Wouldn’t you rather know? Simple lifestyle changes can prevent diabetes, but you won’t be able to make them unless you know your exact blood sugar levels. Some people have been able to reverse their type 2 diabetes and stop taking oral insulin just by losing weight and making other changes. It’s worth it.
Lipid Panel or Cholesterol Test
Do your blood vessels have unhealthy levels of waxy, fatty cholesterol? If they do, you are at high risk of heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, and the two biggest causes of heart disease are high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
It’s true that high cholesterol can be genetic, but it’s also true that you can help control it with the right diet and exercise plan. Are you seeing a theme here? High cholesterol is a major risk factor for serious illness, but you can avoid the risk if you take early action.
You should have a good idea of what your LDL and HDL cholesterol levels are. If your lifestyle changes don’t work, you may need medication.
Complete Blood Count
Healthy blood has the right levels of platelets, white blood cells, hemoglobin and red blood cells. If your numbers are totally different from a typical, normal count, that could signal a serious problem. Blood count abnormalities could mean you’re suffering from a vitamin deficiency, iron deficiency, bone marrow problem or cancer.
Here again, seeing these numbers gives you a chance to make changes naturally. You can increase the amount of iron and certain deficiencies in your food. Explore how certain herbs and other natural additions to your diet can help.
Get Your Numbers and Get On the Road to Good Health
These are the basic panels everyone should get. If you have reason to suspect you might have a congenital disease, you should add tests for it. These numbers will give you a good baseline for understanding where your health is right now. They’ll guide you to creating a health-focused lifestyle that can make major differences now and in the future.
1. Heart-healthy Living, National Heart Lung & Blood Institute, https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/
2. Facts About Diabetes, Johns Hopkins Medicine, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/diabetes
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