Importance of labs
Health is not straightforward. Our body is more than just the sum of its parts; it is a complex ecosystem with interdependent structures and function. Unravelling these layers takes an advanced blueprint with the doctor and patient in the center of a meaningful and proactive partnership. Arguably, the most essential tool in assessing how healthy one is and how best to achieve optimal function is to obtain comprehensive laboratory studies or blood work. One needs to look deeper than the eye can see. Even if one feels well, it is imperative to act and measure biomarkers that often predate the onset of an illness. I often like to draw my patients’ attention to this point by quoting President Reagan in dealing with the Russians, “we need to trust but verify.”
Unfortunately, most annual medical check-ups or physicals involve the physician ordering only routine blood tests, if any are ordered at all. There is too often a misconception by doctors that labs add little value and should be reserved for those who are sick. Such a simplistic and outdated view can often leave the patient in a lurch as they realize that they may not be feeling well or desire a more proactive approach to address potential future problems.
A great place to begin is by looking at the most prevalent, under diagnosed, and clinically relevant nutritional deficiencies: omega 3 fats, vitamin D3, B vitamins (especially B12 folate), magnesium, and zinc. These essential nutrients are critical to everyday function. For example, low folate and B12 are associated with problems in brain function and mood. Omega 3 fats and magnesium play important roles in improving metabolism and supporting heart health. The role of vitamin D3 and zinc in a variety of key functions such as bone health and immune system function is now well recognized.
The nutritionist Jonny Bowden has correctly pointed to an important health roadmap by referring to the Four Horsemen of aging – glucose control, inflammation, oxidation, and stress; all of which can be measured. Glucose control and inflammation are particularly dangerous in their destructive force as they are associated with increased rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders like dementia. They are easily measured with a hemoglobin A1C test, which correlates to a mean or average three-month glucose level and a high sensitivity or cardio CRP test, which measures systemic inflammation or an overactive immune system. Simple liver tests like ALT and GGT are associated with oxidative stress and cortisol and DHEA changes are linked to chronic stress. There are a number of other essential labs that should be included from advanced cardiac cholesterol profiles to hormones just to name a few.
Regular lab testing is a simple yet powerful strategy to help one proactively take charge of their current and future health and wellness. A well-chosen profile of blood tests that can easily be drawn at common lab companies such as Quest and Lab Corp, are covered by insurance, and can thoroughly assess one’s overall state of health. Furthermore, increasing studies are showing that such labs can detect silent warning signals that predate the development of serious illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Armed with this vital knowledge, you can plan and execute a proactive strategy to help you achieve and maintain good health and optimal function.
Don’t forget we have an excellent private lab in our new office that works with all insurances and can measure a vast array of studies. We feel strongly that all patients should get their labs checked at least yearly so that they may know their biochemistry. Getting this done in a comfortable and private setting is a significant advantage that we wish to share with all of our current and former patients. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact us at pappashealth.com or by calling 703-734-8271
Yours in health-
Dr. Sam Pappas