Almost everyone age 40 or above has taken a basic blood test. This is usually part of a company healthcare package, or a screening before your purchase health insurance.
Unfortunately, the healthcare and insurance industry processes you through the system so quickly that there is no meaningful consultation with a professional to discuss the results in detail.
And there almost certainly isn’t time to help you with solutions to the problems that may crop up.
I do not believe in living a healthy life just to pass blood tests. We should live a healthy life to fulfill our God-given potential on earth.
But if items on a test show up as far outside of the normal ranges, there may be reasons for concern.
Here are some of the most commonly tested items, what the normal ranges are, and some suggestions as to what to do if they are out of line.
Blood tests can give information about areas of health that need to be addressed. Consider taking a basic test every 1-2 years.
Cholesterol is not the bad guy. You need cholesterol to stay alive. It is part of your cell walls, your hormones and your digestive bile acids.
Current guidelines (in mg/dL) are:
- High: greater than 239
- Borderline high: 200-239
- Desirable: less than 200
- Target: 150-200
- High-risk (men): less than 40
- High-risk (women): less than 50
- Normal (men ): 40-50
- Normal (women): 50-60
- Ideal: more than 60
- Very high: greater than 189
- High: 160-189
- Borderline high: 130-159
- Slightly high: 100-129
- Normal: less than 100
- Ideal: less than 80
Not all cholesterol is made equal. There are the well-known LDL (bad) and HDL (good) types. But even more important than the types are their particle size and their level of oxidation.
There are “large particle” and “small particle” types of cholesterol. The problems come from the small particle types.
Imagine the lining of your arteries as a tennis net. A small golf ball is able to pass through the net, but a large soccer ball is unable to.
The golf ball represents the dangerous, small particle type of cholesterol. These pass through the artery linings, get stuck, rot and cause damage. This rotting is called “oxidation,” and it damages the artery, leading to cardiovascular disease.
So how do you know if you have those nice big soccer balls of cholesterol particles or the golf-ball-sized ones?
There is a test called a “vertical auto profile” lipid test for particle size, though it’s not commonly available.
But another way to guess your particle size is based on the fact that high-sugar diets tend to lead to small, dangerous cholesterol particles. And a good overall indicator of excessive blood sugar is the triglyceride reading in your blood test.
Triglycerides are the way body stores fat when you eat too much sugar.
So to get a good indicator of your cholesterol particle size, take a look at your HDL-to-triglyceride ratio. Ideally you should have a 1:1 ratio or better (i.e., more HDL than triglycerides). A 1:2 ratio is passable, but anything worse than 1:3 is a sign that your cholesterol particles are likely to be the small, dangerous ones.
Here are the reference ranges for triglycerides (mg/dL):
- Very high: more than 499
- High: 200-499
- Borderline high: 150-199
- Normal: less than 150
- Target: 50-100
Imagine how difficult it will be to have a 1:1 ratio if you have crazy high triglycerides.
Luckily, the things you need to do to lower your triglycerides are very similar to those you need to do to lower your total cholesterol and raise your HDL. And most of them are already covered by the other tips in this guide. I will list the research-backed methods of lowering bad cholesterol triglycerides, then refer you to the tips which cover these methods in more detail.
- Reduce alcohol and smoking to a minimum.
- Remove processed carbohydrates and sugar.
- Manage stress levels (Tip #36).
- Get quality sleep (Tip #35).
- Remove trans fats from your diet. These are usually from vegetable oils and are found in most processed and baked goods.
- Eat enough healthy fats (Tip #11).
- Exercise (all of the “training” section).
- Omega 3 fats: 3-6g/day (Tip #11)
- CoQ10: 30mg 3x/day or 50mg 2x/day
- Probiotics: 5-10 billion CFU 2-3x/day with food
- Plant sterols: 1.7g 1-2x/day
- Red yeast rice: 1200mg 2x/day (this supplement acts like a statin drug but with far fewer side effects)
- Your doctor may prescribe statins to help manage your cholesterol levels. You may need to use these temporarily if your levels are in the very high range. But they do have side effects like headaches, muscle pain, nausea, weakness and elevated liver enzymes.
- If you are required to take statins, make sure you take CoQ10, vitamin D and vitamin E from a multivitamin to minimize statin side effects and the depletion of these nutrients.
High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP)
This test is an indicator of overall inflammation in your body. High levels indicate a higher risk of heart disease. The ranges are as follows:
- Elevated risk: greater than 2.9
- Moderate risk: 1.0-2.9
- Low risk/target range: less than 1.0
Aging is one of the risk factors for high CRP, along with illness/infections, high levels of toxicity and a diet high in processed foods. Genetics also play a role.
If you find yourself with high readings of hs-CRP, here are some supplements you can take:
- Curcumin: 250mg 2x/day (try to get a capsule which also contains piperine, which has been shown to improve the absorption of curcumin)
- Grape seed extract: 150mg 2x/day
- Green tea: 3 cups or 250mg 1-2x/day
- Magnesium: 500mg 1-2x/day in the evenings (Tip #19)
- Omega-3 fats: 3-6g/day (Tip #11)
- Vitamin C: 1000mg 1x/day (get the buffered form which has less risk of loose stools)
- Vitamin D: 4000IU/day, especially if you do not get much sunlight exposure (Tip #34)
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA)
This test is often performed for men after age 40. A sudden upward jump in its readings within a six-month period is a sign of possible prostate cancer. The reference ranges (ng/ml) are:
- High: 4.0-10
- Normal: 0.0-4.0
Some of the causes of high PSA readings include:
- Steroid use
- Frequent ejaculation
- Long-distance cycling
- Infections and diseases of the testes
- Prostate cancer
In addition to a high reading on this test, other symptoms can include:
- Increased frequency of urination
- Painful urination
- Erectile dysfunction
- Groin pain
The supplements that have been shown to improve PSA readings are:
- Omega-3 fats: 3-6g/day (Tip #11)
- Saw palmetto extract: 160mg 3x/day
- Zinc: 15-30mg 1x/day (Tip #20)
One final test that is easy to obtain. And is especially useful if you or your family have a history of diabetes. Is called HbA1c. It is a test designed to see if your body has been damaged by high blood sugar.
It checks what percentage of your red blood cells have been damaged. Because excessive sugars in the blood can bind to the red blood cells and make them useless. This damage, called "glycation" can happen to other proteins in your body as well. The red blood cells are just used as an indicator.
6.5% is considered high risk. 6.0-6,4% is borderline high. For optimal health, it's better to aim for 5.4% or lower.
The recommendations to lower HbA1c are similar to those to lower cholesterol and triglycerides seen above. You may also consider lowering your carbohydrate intake (tip #24) and ensuring good quality sleep and stress management (tip #35, #36). As these factors also lower blood sugar.