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A blood test is the most accurate and up-to-date method of gauging your current health as well as identifying any underlying conditions or potential risks that you may not know about. It is especially important that older people keep an eye on their health by havingblood checks, as over the age of 40  problematic health conditions are more likely to occur. Blood tests monitor changes in the body and detect abnormalities, allowingdoctorsto advise science-based individually tailored changes to a patient’slifestyle, and if necessary to undertake medical interventions to stave off serious illness.

Unfortunately, there is no one blood test that can check for everything your doctor might need to know about your state of health. Different tests look for different indicators and are analyzed in different ways. The good news is that these tests can be ordered online without insurance and that based on the results doctors can advise on a course of action to improve your general health, to stop a potential problem from developing, or advise on the best way to manage an existing condition.

Blood tests can detect changes in your body chemistry that increase the risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease, to name just three of the most common illnesses that can be detected via a blood test. Fatigue, low mood, weight changes and sexual dysfunction can also be caused by a deficiency or excess that a blood test can flag up, allowing for a course of action to be prescribed. But the routine blood tests ordered by your family physician or local hospital can often overlook some of the most important signs. That is why for adults over 40 it’s important to make sure you get the appropriate checks done on a regular basis.

Chemistry panel and complete blood count

This is your standard general blood chemistry check-up for your liver, kidney, vascular system and blood cell status. The complete blood cell count measures the number of red and white blood cells in your body, as well as the smaller platelet cells. It measures hemoglobin and the hematocrit- the percentage of your blood that is made up of red cells. The mean corpuscular volume of red cells is also calculated. This is a way of screening for any infections or abnormalities in the blood, as well as for anemia.

Chemistry panel tests include a lipid panel which measures your cholesterol, triglycerides and lipoprotein levels in order to assess cardiovascular risks. A metabolic or electrolyte panel test assesses your body’s levels of sodium, potassium, chloride, carbon dioxide, blood urea nitrogen, creatinine and glucose. A more comprehensive metabolic panel can include further tests, including calcium levels.

These panel tests can check for side effects of medication as well as for signs of diabetes, hypoglycemia, early-stage metabolic syndrome and heart disease. They are also a good indicator of kidney function.

Hemoglobin A1C

This test measures your blood sugar control over the past 2-3 months and is more reliable than measuring daily glucose levels as these tend to fluctuate more. The American Diabetes Association recommends this test every 3-6 months for insulin users, those changing diabetes treatment or those who are aware that they have elevated blood glucose levels. The test can also be used to predict and prevent heart disease, strokes and heart attacks in non-diabetics.

Vitamin B12 and methylmalonic acid

Vitamin B12 deficiency is very common in older people and can be the cause of fatigue, memory problems and even difficulties in walking and getting about. If a deficiency is found, then further tests may be carried out to determine the cause.

Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)

TSH is secreted by the pituitary gland and controls thyroid hormone secretion. When the level of TSH in the blood falls below normal this may indicate hypothyroidism, or low thyroid activity, which in turn can increase the risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease, and symptoms like weight gain, fatigue, depression and cognitive dysfunction.

Other blood tests can measure levels of tissue inflammation, iron in the blood, and various hormones, proteins and acid that can be used to detect early warning signs of heart disease, anemiaand many other conditions. In many cases, a simple change in lifestyle, involving improved diet, an exercise plan and natural supplements, can be enough to set you back on course once a blood test has identified a problem. In other cases, your GP will be able to advise you. However, an appropriate blood test is the first step to taking control of your health and hopefully preventing any potential problems before they occur.