Most of us don’t think about getting bloodwork done unless our doctor tells us to. However, there are blood tests you may not even think to ask about but should get, especially if you have a family history of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia, or autoimmune disease.
At GR8NESS, we think you should work closely with your doctor to decide which tests are appropriate for you. The tests discussed below may be worth considering at your next appointment. They could let you know if you need to make any lifestyle changes that will lower your risk of disease.
1. If Your Family Has Heart Disease History
One blood test alone won’t determine your heart health. The most significant risk factors for heart disease are lifestyle choices such as smoking and conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
A routine blood test checks your total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and your triglycerides.
Check Oxidize LCL
In addition to this test, consider asking about testing your oxidized LCL (OxLDL). A high-level of circulating OxLDL is a reliable indicator of the early stages of heart disease.
Look at Lipoprotein Levels
Also, consider checking your levels of lipoprotein (a) or Lp(a) blood levels. This particle can triple your risk of a stroke or heart attack. It is often elevated in people of northern European descent. Knowing if you are predisposed is vital for two reasons.
Since statin drugs can raise the level of Lp(a), you’ll want to discuss this with your physician. And, if you know you are predisposed, you can make lifestyle decisions to preserve your health.
2. Diabetes History
If you have a family history of diabetes, you should think about taking a fasting insulin test. This test measures the amount of insulin in your blood. This is important because you can have normal blood sugar and still have elevated blood insulin levels. Also, insulin levels often become imbalanced before blood glucose or HbA1C levels so that this test can spot the risk earlier.
3. If Your Family Has a Cancer History
What test you should ask for will depend on the type of cancer in your family’s medical history. Listen carefully to your doctor’s advice. For instance, if you have colorectal cancer in your family, the age at which insurance will cover a colonoscopy is lower. The same goes for mammograms if you have a close relative who has had breast cancer.
To test for any cancer, ask for a fasting insulin test like the one above for diabetes. Cancer patients often have elevated insulin levels. Knowing this sooner rather than later, can prompt you to make healthy lifestyle choices, such as lowering your intake of carbohydrates, which can suppress or delay the emergence of cancer cells.
4. Dementia and Alzheimer’s History
Imbalances in insulin and blood sugar levels can play a role in neurogenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. People who have higher fasting insulin levels have a significantly faster cognitive decline, regardless of whether or not they have developed diabetes. You can also do genetic testing for the APOE4 gene of chromosome 19. This doesn’t mean you will develop dementia or Alzheimer’s, but it does increase the risk. If you find out that you have this gene, you may be able to reduce your risk by avoiding saturated fats.
5. If Your Family Has an Autoimmune Disease History
Most doctors don’t test for autoimmune disease unless you have symptoms, even if it’s in your family’s medical history. If you have some symptoms, your doctor may run a test to detect antinuclear antibodies (ANA) in your blood. A positive test will indicate that your immune system has launched an attack on your tissues.
Ideally, you would find your sweet spot, so that you neither under-test nor over-test for conditions based on your family medical history. The key is getting the right tests regularly so that you can track your results and notice trends. And make smart choices to delay or resolve any issues you find.