Kent Probst, BS, MEd
Kent Probst is the owner of Long Healthy Life Blog
Annual blood testing for longevity is one important strategy for combating the diseases of aging. But which blood tests are the most beneficial, and how can they help you live a longer and healthier life?
Someone once said, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”
You may think it sounds cliché, but avoiding the diseases of aging is key to leading a long, healthy life.
Shockingly, many people don’t think about it this way. Or they don’t think the diseases of aging can be avoided.
However, you may be surprised to learn the opposite is true. There are many strategies you can use to stay healthy, like good nutrition, exercise, and nutritional supplements.
But one strategy for avoiding the diseases of aging that isn’t given a lot of attention is annual blood testing for longevity.
Annual blood testing is important because it can detect a problem well in advance of symptoms, so you can correct the problem before it becomes a serious disease.
It’s getting a handle on how your body is functioning beneath the surface.
So what are the most important blood tests for longevity? And what can they tell you?
Here are some of the most important blood tests and how they can help you.
Chemistry panel (metabolic panel with lipids)
A chemistry panel is a comprehensive test that’s the foundation of your annual blood testing and the starting point for detecting disease before it occurs.
It provides a good overall view of how your body is functioning.
The ideal test to get is a metabolic panel with lipids, which looks at a broad range of markers for kidney and liver function, minerals for bone health, electrolyte status, metabolic function, and cardiovascular risk.
This is one of the best kinds of annual blood testing for longevity because it can reveal potential health problems before any outward symptoms are displayed.
For example, glucose should remain stable throughout the day. Aging adults can tend to have rising blood glucose that trends up with age.
Hyperglycemia, or high blood glucose, can adversely affect the eyes, nerves, kidneys, and heart.
Complete blood count (CBC)
A CBC assesses the blood cells that are circulating in your body (white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets).
These biomarkers can tell you about the health of your immune system, clotting ability of your blood, nutritional deficiencies, and identify potential blood disorders.
If your CBC came back and showed that your hemoglobin is low, that may explain why you feel you have no energy or are fatigued.
Or, if your test reveals a low white cell count, it could indicate that you’re at risk for infections.
TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone)
The pituitary gland secretes TSH, which stimulates the thyroid, which in turn produces the hormones T3 and T4.
An annual blood test that looks at your TSH can show if your TSH is high, for example, which may indicate hypothyroidism. If your TSH is low, it may indicate hyperthyroidism.
The protein ferritin is produced by the liver and is used for storing iron. Doing annual blood testing for longevity to look at ferritin levels can be a superior indicator for assessing iron status, and more than just serum iron.
Iron overload or iron deficiency anemia can be determined by looking at serum ferritin.
Vitamin D, 25-Hydroxy
Vitamin D is extremely important for your immune system, as well as healthy teeth, bone density, a healthy heart, and cognitive function.
If your annual blood testing shows your vitamin D levels are low, this is an easy one to supplement to make sure your blood levels are optimal.
You can find inexpensive vitamin D supplements at the health food store or drugstore. It’s also easy to add to your diet with foods like salmon, tuna, egg yolks, and many fortified foods.
In addition to supplementation and diet, 30 minutes of sunshine generates about 10,000 IU of vitamin D in your body.
Whether you’re supplementing your diet with magnesium or not, it’s important for bone, muscle, nerve, immune and cardiovascular health, as well as optimal cognitive function.
Some of the best forms are magnesium oxide, citrate, succinate, and L-threonate.
Most Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their food, which may show in your annual blood tests.
C-reactive protein, high sensitivity (CRP)
CRP is a protein made by your liver, and it’s a broad measure of inflammation in your body.
The reason this is a good annual blood test is because keeping your CRP levels low can reduce your risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Fortunately, you can lower your CRP with diet and supplements.
Optimal CRP levels for men are below 0.55 mg/L and women below 1.0 mg/L in women.
High homocysteine levels are an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease and also contribute to the development of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
If your blood test shows too much homocysteine, it can also make the complications of diabetes worse.
Supplementing with Vitamins B2, B6, Folate, and B12 may reduce your homocysteine levels.
Free and total testosterone
Men’s testosterone levels fall gradually after age 30.
Low testosterone levels are associated with depression, muscle atrophy, increased fat mass, heart disease, and decreased libido.
Even if your testosterone levels come back low in your annual blood testing, your physician will probably not prescribe testosterone replacement unless you’re having symptoms.
You may want to explore boosting your testosterone levels naturally.
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S)
The hormone DHEA is integral to maintaining muscle and bone mass, immune function, hormone balance, mood, and energy.
Produced in the adrenal glands, testicles and ovaries, DHEA is a precursor for testosterone and estrogen.
DHEA levels decline with age, which is why it’s an important part of annual blood testing for longevity. In fact, by age 80, DHEA levels typically drop by 80% to 90%.
Low levels of the hormone DHEA are linked to premature mortality and systemic aging.
Low DHEA levels are also associated with depression, cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, and inflammatory disorders.
If your DHEA levels are low, discuss DHEA replacement with your doctor.
Men – Prostate specific antigen (PSA)
Produced by the prostate gland, PSA can be used simultaneously with a digital rectal exam to screen for prostate cancer or benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH).
The optimal PSA level is less than 0.1 ng/mL.
Natural supplements to support a healthy prostate include saw palmetto, stinging nettle root, lycopene and pygeum africanum.
Estradiol is the most abundant form of estrogen in a woman’s body, and men have much smaller amounts of it in their blood.
High levels of estradiol in men are associated with cardiovascular disease, enlarged prostate, and abdominal fat.
Low levels are linked to osteoporosis in women.
Apolipoprotein B (ApoB)
Apolipoprotein B is the major component of every non-HDL cholesterol in blood. It’s also integral to lipid metabolism.
Three different forms of possibly dangerous forms of cholesterol – low-density lipoprotein (LDL), intermediate-density lipoprotein (IDL), and very low-density lipoprotein – (VLDL) are associated with the ApoB protein.
Your risk of heart attack and arterial calcification go up as your apolipoprotein B levels go up.
Measuring ApoB in your annual blood testing may be better than a standard lipid profile for predicting heart disease.
Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C)
Hemoglobin A1C testing can provide a better picture of your blood glucose levels over a period of months than a simple blood glucose test. Hemoglobin A1C can tell you if you’re at risk for diabetes.
Measuring hemoglobin A1C can give you a good idea of how much glycation is occurring in your body.
And glycation is the creation of nonfunctional proteins that have reacted with serum glucose.
Fasting insulin levels can help determine insulin resistance, and people with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance may have elevated fasting insulin levels. Low fasting insulin levels may be indicative of type 1 diabetes.
During insulin resistance, insulin does not facilitate getting glucose into the tissues and cells, resulting in high blood glucose.
Women – Progesterone
Women must maintain the proper balance of progesterone and estrogen to help balance blood sugar levels, increase bone mass, lessen anxiety, and contribute to healthy sleep.
In addition to the reason above, annual blood testing for progesterone may predict other potential health problems associated with improper progesterone levels, including osteoporosis, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, and cancer.
Where to get annual blood tests for longevity
Unfortunately, the annual blood tests that most physicians order are insufficient and outdated for identifying the relevant disease risk markers that you need for healthy aging and longevity.
The routine tests that most doctors order are merely to make sure you’re surviving, not thriving.
Additionally, annual blood testing for longevity, like the tests I’ve listed, may not be covered by your insurance.
The good news is that you can manage much of your annual blood testing on your own at a very reasonable price.
Life Extension offers a wide array of blood tests. All of the above blood tests are included in the male panel blood test or the female panel blood test.
You can purchase the blood tests online or over the phone. You will be mailed a doctor’s order to have your blood drawn at LabCorp.
After you receive your results, a health professional at Life Extension will spend 30 minutes discussing your results.
When you get the test results, you should take them to your doctor to discuss them and have them added to your chart.
Congratulations! You’ve successfully added another component to your plan for living a long, healthy life.
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