Additional Health Tests to Demand from Your Doctor
Mark Macdonald | Aug 12, 2013, 4:18 p.m.
As a professional fitness coach and nutritionist, my job is to recommend the most effective health solutions for individuals. While mirrors and scales don’t lie, the best way to determine how healthy you are is by taking some key medical tests. The reality, however, is that most Americans should request additional tests, beyond standard blood work, at their next physical. Here are five supplementary health tests to ask for at your next doctor’s visit:
• Antioxidants – A 1,000 person survey for MonaVie, a leading nutritional products company, with Wakefield Research revealed that a whopping 92 percent of respondents could not give an accurate description of an antioxidant. So why is it important to test for them? Antioxidants are molecules that neutralize free radicals, naturally occurring chemical compounds which can damage cells. The more free radicals in the body, the more opportunity there is for illness and premature aging to occur. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and keep the body in a more balanced state.
To maintain peak levels, you need to consume on average nine–13 servings of antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables per day. Since most Americans don’t have the time or resources to ingest those amounts, there’s an easy solution — liquid antioxidants. These are convenient, tasty beverages that don’t keep you chained to the dinner table.
• Vitamin D – Vitamin D plays a vital role in the maintenance of strong, healthy bones. Men and women require different ideal levels of vitamin D. It’s important to know your current level to make sure you’re maintaining therapeutic amounts year-round. There are several easy fixes to a vitamin D deficiency, such as increasing sunlight exposure and adding more fish and fortified dairy products to your diet.
• Blood Sugar – Blood sugar is sugar, in the form of glucose, residing in the bloodstream. It supplies energy to cells and stabilizes the body. The problem is that while most doctors administer this test, they don’t mention the results unless your score is elevated, at which point you may have already entered into a pre-diabetic state. As a result, it’s important to receive your baseline number and monitor accordingly before any problems arise. To keep blood sugar stable, eat five to six small meals a day or reduce mealtime portions while adding in two daily snack sessions.
• Sex Hormones – Balanced levels of sex hormones (testosterone, estrogen and progesterone) are essential to physical and emotional well-being. Start monitoring at age 40 for both sexes. Target levels vary by age, sex and body type. If your readings are slightly off, sleep more, alternate stress management techniques and drink more water. Readings that verge greatly from the norm will warrant further investigation by a physician.
• Cortisol – High stress, the hallmark of our fast-paced lives, can lead to elevated levels of the hormone, cortisol. Cortisol affects the skeletal, circulatory, immune and nervous systems as well as metabolism. Ideal levels are low — six - 23 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) — while increased readings manifest themselves through weight gain, lack of energy and decrease in bone density. To keep cortisol in check, lower stress through exercise, meditation, going to bed early and even listening to music.
There are many things we can’t control in life. The one thing we can control is how we choose to take care of ourselves. Ensure you are living up to your healthiest potential by requesting these additional tests at your next doctor’s visit.
Mark Macdonald, a nutritionist and fitness trainer, is author of The New York Times bestseller, Body Confidence.