I often hear from my friends, family and patients aged 20-35, that they haven’t had a physical exam or health screening blood work done in years. They tell me they are young, healthy and they “don’t need it right?” Wrong! It is very important to book an annual physical with your Naturopathic or Medical Doctor regardless of whether you have concerns about your health or not.
Why should I have a physical exam every year?
– Many illness and diseases which affect young people have no or few symptoms until late in the disease progression. By having a screening physical, abnormalities can be caught earlier and can lead to better disease outcomes.
– If you have a physical done when you are healthy, there will be a baseline of comparison if you are to ever to get sick.
Ok, physical is booked, but do I have to get the blood work? I hate needles!
– Needles are not fun. However, annual screening blood work is very important! Generally before you have any symptoms of disease certain blood tests will indicate there is problem. Therefore, treatment can begin earlier and lead to a better prognosis.
– Also blood work may reveal that certain nutrients in your body are low/ high and supplementing or avoiding these may increase energy and improve health.
Fine, I’ll get the blood work. What should I be getting?
– The blood tests that most people aged 20-35 should be getting annually are:
- CBC: complete blood count
- Determine general health status and screen for many diseases
- B12: vitamin B12
- Screen for anemia and nutritional status
- Fe: Ferritin
- Determine Iron levels in the body
- TSH: Thyroid Stimulating Hormone
- Screen for thyroid function, role in metabolism
- eGFR: Glomerlar Filtration Rate
- Show kidney function, the rate of kidney disease in young people is on the rise
- Liver Panel: ALT, ALP etc.
- Screen for liver inflammation, disease or damage
- ESR: End sedimentation rate
- General inflammation, infections or tumors in the body
- CRP: C-Reactive Protein
- Presence of inflammation; such as, disease, arthritis, IBD or auto-immunity
- Lipid Profile: Total Cholesterol, LDL (bad), HDL (good), TG etc.
- Asses risk of Cardiovascular Disease and fat and cholesterol levels in the blood
- FBS: Fasting Blood Glucose
- Determine if sugar levels in the blood are high or low and looking for diabetes
*The blood work recommendations above are good a good guideline to general health screening but it is always a good idea to visit with a Naturopathic Doctor who can recommend an inclusive list of all testing you should have done based on past medical and family history.
Will I have any blood left??
– Only a small amount of blood is needed to run all of these tests. Don’t worry.
Are there any other tests I should get while I’m at it?
– Yes actually, also ask your ND or MD to do a Urine Analysis, (pee in a cup), to asses bladder, kidney and general health.
Should I ask for copies of my blood work? Is that allowed?
– Yes! It is always a good idea to have your own copies of blood work or other tests you have done. Make a file called something like “(Your Name) Health Record” and put a copy of any testing you have done in there. Also if you get testing done by your MD, bring a copy to your ND for further assessment.
My idea to do this blog was inspired by my friend Darren Bishop, who last May was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia. His diagnosis came one week before he had planned to do the Ride to Conquer Cancer, a 200+km bike ride to raise money for the Princess Margaret Hospital. Darren was an otherwise healthy 26 year old man last May when he received the diagnosis. His only symptoms were those similar to a flu: difficulty breathing, fatigue and night sweats. After encouragement from his girlfriend Jordan, he visited a doctor. Darren has and continues to show amazing strength through rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. Darren will overcome this, but he will be the first to tell you that the fight has been anything but easy. Disease doesn’t just affect “old people”, it can happen to anyone. It is important to see your doctor for annual physicals and lab testing no matter what stage of life you are in. Jordan says it perfectly, “you have to be your own health advocate”. We are responsible for our own health and sometimes you need to ask your ND or MD for physicals and pertinent testing.
Jordan will be riding for Darren this weekend in the Ride to Conquer Cancer. If you would like to support Jordan and Darren and donate to their team please visit the link below:
Yours in health,
Dr. Aisling Lanigan ND