Miracle Noodle founder, Jonathan Carp, M.D. recently hosted a webinar in which he recommends 7 diagnostic tests you can either request from your doctor or order yourself from an independent lab or research institution.
The tests Dr. Carp highlighted should be considered the benchmarks of lifestyle medicine. Unfortunately, when you get a normal blood panel test at your doctor’s office or health clinic, there’s a good chance the tests below will not be included.
If you want to become your own health and anti-aging authority, consider ordering or requesting these tests. In the meantime, let’s dive in and learn about the 7 lab tests you should get for optimal health…
Of the seven tests, along with vitamin D, the hemoglobin A1C test is the most well-known, especially if you have a relative with high blood sugar (or you yourself have it). The HgA1C test measures levels of glycohemoglobin. Glycohemoglobin is glucose (blood sugar) that binds to hemoglobin (the protein inside red blood cells). The bond between glucose and the red blood cells is irreversibly bound. In other words, the sugar won’t let go.
Dr. Carp explains because red blood cells live for two to three months, the HgA1C test is a good indicator of your average levels of glucose attached to the red blood cells.
If you have a high HgA1C score, it’s an indicator that you will experience “AGE-ing.” AGE is a most-appropriate acronym. It stands for “advanced glycation end products”. AGE products are not something you buy in the store. Rather, they are sugar toxins that produce high oxidation. Think of an apple turning brown and rotting. That’s oxidation. Having a HgA1C score speeds up the aging process.
As an example, Dr. Carp mentions the consequences of bound sugar to hemoglobin in the skin: wrinkles. Wrinkles occur because AGE damages collagen, the structural protein that holds the skin and other tissues together. In addition blood sugar spikes can cause muscles and tendons to stiffen and become inflexible; if AGE products accumulate in the eyes of somebody with diabetes, this can lead to diabeteic retinopathy.
But it’s not just people with diabetes who have high levels of insulin and blood sugar spikes. That being said, however, having an elevated HgA1C level is a good indicator of pre-diabetes. If your HgA1C score is normal, you’re not out of the woods, either. This is because HgA1C levels are based on the general population. Obviously, many Americans don’t eat healthy, so you don’t want to be average in comparison to the average American’s HgA1C level.
To sump up, the HgA1C test not only offers insight into your blood sugar levels, it also reveals the extent to which your body is aging.
The impact vitamin D plays on human health is too long to mention. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed, having low levels of serum vitamin D is associated with a higher mortality rate in those infected by the novel coronavirus.
Thankfully, as the importance of vitamin D on optimal health is becoming more evident, testing for the nutrient, which actually acts more like a hormone than an actual vitamin, is becoming more readily available in common blood panel tests.
It’s absolutely critical that you get a blood test for vitamin D. That’s because of two reasons. Firstly, a large percentage of people are vitamin D deficient. And secondly, a blood test is the only way to know for sure if you have adequate levels.
Even if you take a supplement or spend a lot of time in the sun, it’s no guarantee that your liver and kidneys are activating enough vitamin D.
In fact, Dr. Carp references a study on Haiwaiian surfers. The shocking results revealed that more than one third of the surfers tested were vitamin D deficient, despite spending hours in the water with most of their body exposed to sun.
Having adequate levels of vitamin D can reduce your chance of developing cancer and heart disease.
A normal blood test from your doctor includes a lipid panel. A lipid panel shows levels of total cholesterol, HDLs, LDLs, triglycerides, and the ratios between the markers. However, what your average lipid panel will not show is the amount of protein on the surface of LDL. This is what an apolipoprotein B test reveals. Having high levels of Apo B demonstrates a high amount of plaque in the arteries. This places you at a 60% greater risk for having heart disease.
The alarming thing about Apo B is that even if you have normal cholesterol levels, you can still have high Apo B levels. Having both high cholesterol markers and Apo B elevates your risk of heart attack by 160%.
To lower your Apo B, Dr. Carp recommends walnuts, fish oil and cruciferous veggies. You’ll also want to make sure your thyroid levels are adequate. This is because having low thyroid levels increases Apo B levels.
If the name Bob Harper rings a bell, then you might be familiar with Lipoprotein A. Harper, a personal fitness trainer to celebrities, including Oprah, and the host of the popular TV program, “The Biggest Loser,” experienced a heart attack in 2017.
Despite being in great shape, Harper had high levels of lipoprotein A in his blood. This fatty protein particle leads to a buildup of plaque in the arteries. If left unchecked, it can form blood clots, which can cause heart attacks.
Roughly 20% of the population has high levels of lipoprotein A. And up to 40% have mid-tier levels. Even though the condition is influenced by genetics, there are some things that can be done to stem the accumulation of it. Taking niacin (vitamin B3) and high doses of fish oil may help.
Dr. Carp also recommends making sure your insulin level and thyroid levels are optimal. Getting a coronary calcium scan can also be helpful in determining if you’re at risk for heart attack caused by Lipo A. With this CT scan the arteries of the heart are analyzed for blockages. Although a CT scan does expose you to radiation, Dr. Carp says it’s worth a peek into the health of your arteries. Local university hospitals may be a good source to get a coronary calcium scan.
Another diagnostic tool that scans arterial health is the carotid intima-media thickness test (CIMT. This measures the buildup of plaque in the carotid artery, which supplies blood to the brain. Even if you’re asymptomatic, this test can alert physicians to any thickening of the artery caused by plaque buildup.
A relatively inexpensive test insulin is one of the most important things to get tested for. Having high insulin levels makes losing weight difficult. That’s because when the blood sugar controlling hormone has to work overtime to escort glucose into the cells, it shuts off an enzyme called lipase, which breaks down fat.
What causes high insulin levels? Obviously, a diet high in sugar. But what may be surprising to many people is that eating lots of animal protein can trigger a substantial release of the hormone.
It’s also possible that you can have high insulin levels in the absence of high blood sugar scores. How can this be? After eating a high carb meal, your insulin can be quite effective at quickly bringing down your blood sugar levels. However, eventually, you’ll develop insulin resistance, requiring more and more of the hormone.
Dr. Carp points out that insulin functions as a growth hormone and can thus promote cancer cell growth. In fact, having high insulin levels puts you at greater risk not only for cancer but other chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, hypertension, and heart disease.
In order to lower insulin levels, besides the obvious tip to eliminate carbs and added sugars, you can try intermittent fasting and get more exercise. Also, the drug metformin, which is a diabetes medication that has a relatively low risk of side effects may help lower insulin. Dr. Carp also recommends the adaptogenic herb, jiaogulan as well as the compound berberine.
hsCRP (C-reactive protein)
C-reactive protein measures inflammation in the body. Having a lot of abdominal fat is an indication of high C-reactive protein, which is associated with a greater risk of heart disease, hypertension and Afib (irregular heart beat).
Again, fasting is a good way to get inflammatory C-reactive protein levels down. Dr. Carp explains that fat isn’t a stationary object. Rather, it’s very metabolically active, churning out hormones such as estrogen and inflammatory proteins (cytokines).
Cytokines recruit other cells that promote inflammation as they travel through the bloodstream. In order to optimize your health, you must get rid of visceral fat (fat that surrounds the organs).
If you’ve reached a weight loss plateau and you can’t lose those last stubborn 10 pounds, try simulated fasting, which is a 5-day fast with calories.
Make sure you’re using anti-inflammatory spices and foods in your diet every day. Turmeric, ginger, omega-3s, green tea, resveratrol and a whole bunch of other foods and nutrients can help decrease inflammation. Even vitamin C, which in one study, helped reduce inflammation by 24% in smokers, can help.
Another tip to keep your C-reactive protein levels low is avoid blackened, charred or grilled meats, which can contribute to high levels of CRP. Instead of grilling meats, boil or braise them. Using pressure cookers and Insta pots is also a healthier alternative.
Extended Hormonal Panel
Finally, Dr. Carp recommends once a year getting a full panel of sex and stress hormones, including (for men): DHEA-S, DHT, Estradiol, Pregnenolone, Testosterone (free and total), Sex Hormone Binding Gobulin, and Cortisol. In addition, get your thyroid levels tested for TSH, Free T3, and Free T4.
Lab Tests For Optimal Health : Conclusion
Other lab tests such as food sensitivity, micronutrients, heavy metals (including levels both inside and outside the cell and in the red blood cells), and omega 3-6 fatty acid ratios.
Remember, you can request these tests from your physician. If he or she is reluctant to order them, and if you have the financial resources to do so, you can order these tests from independent labs. Doing so can help you take control of your health and extend your life.
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Jenna L. Witt, APRN
Family Medicine/Functional Medicine
Certified Health Coach