I have something that I find extremely interesting, exciting, and important to share with you today. 🙂 A few weeks ago, I received a message from someone telling me that we’ve never officially met, but she is a friend of my next door neighbor and she even bought some of my boys’ pajamas in our garage sale last year. She told me that when she took her youngest son on a bike ride recently, she remembered one of my Facebook posts about how I like to bike with my twin boys in a trailer behind me, going up and down the hills around our area. She thought to herself, “She’s got to be super healthy…I wonder what her Omega-3 index is.” ha! Well, she’s a registered nurse and works for a lab based out of Richmond, VA called Health Diagnostic Laboratory. Right away, I was very interested in hearing more about the testing. Health, in general, is a completely fascinating topic for me. I am constantly reading books and websites (and other blogs) trying to find out all I can on how to be as “healthy” as possible. In the past couple of years, I feel like I’ve been doing a decent job of taking care of myself and making healthy choices, but…I didn’t know for sure. Am I getting enough vitamin D? What about omega-3s? Am I eating enough seafood? How is my cholesterol? Am I at risk for diabetes? Those are a concern for me, especially because they are in my family history. So, when I found out that I could have a simple blood test and find out the answers to these questions, you bet I was going to jump at that opportunity!
The results of this test can help you determine if you’re at a higher risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and more. These advanced tests can show ‘hidden’ warning signs in your body that regular testing may not show. And then the results are presented to you in a color-coded, easy to understand way. I think data like this is truly invaluable for anyone who cares about their health…and hopefully that is everyone!! It was definitely eye-opening for me and I already know what I’m going to be working on…starting immediately!
First, I want to share how the process works so you know what to expect. My process was a little different because I didn’t go through my regular doctor, but normally, you’ll start the process by working with your own doctor. The testing requires that you fast, so I would recommend doing it first thing in the morning. You’ll also give a urine sample. (Always fun, right?) Your results will then be sent to your doctor less than a week afterwards with a copy for you and him/her. The results are color coded to show high risk, intermediate risk, or optimal. I was relieved when I opened my packet to see that I didn’t have anything in red (high risk), however, I saw a few yellows (intermediate risk) that popped out at me right away. Thankfully, most of my results were in the green (optimal) range.
After you have a chance to look over your results and go over them with your doctor, you also have the opportunity to setup a phone appointment with a Clinical Health Consultant. This person will call you and spend an hour going over your results with you, letting you know what each one means for your health and then give you personalized recommendations. This is the most important part, especially if your doctor didn’t spend as much time going over them with you. Of course it’s good to know what your results are, but unless you’re in the optimal range in every single category, you’re going to need to figure out WHAT it is you can do to improve your health. After the phone call, my health consultant then sent me some specific resources based on what we had talked about and also scheduled a 30 minute follow-up appointment for a month from now to see how I’m doing with the suggestions. That will help keep me accountable. 🙂
So…how “healthy” am I??? Well, my health consultant said my results were “very, very good.” Right away, I was glad to hear that, but I was also concerned about the results that were in the intermediate risk. I wanted to know what those each meant and how I could improve. I started to write an in-depth explanation for each test result and what it means, but then I realized that would make this post entirely way too long!! So, instead, I’m going to do my best to summarize each section and what my results mean for my health. Here is what one page of the report looks like in full.
That’s a lot of numbers!! I’ll do my best to briefly explain. 🙂
BMI – 19.3 – I’m 5’7″ and 123 lbs. This is a very healthy weight for my height. I’m neither overweight nor underweight. (Normal BMI range is 18.5 – 24.9.)
Lipids – “This basic group of tests is a good start to find out your risk for heart disease and other health problems.”
- Total Cholesterol: represents the total amount of cholesterol circulating in blood.
- LDL-C: Bad cholesterol that can build up in arteries and add to risk of heart disease and stroke.
- HDL-C: Good cholesterol that may protect your heart.
- Triglycerides: When found at high levels, this type of fat is not healthy. Mine was way low…yay!
Summary: As you can see, everything was in the optimal range. My bad cholesterol was low and my good cholesterol was high. 🙂
Lipoprotein Particles – “These advanced tests show your levels of good and bad cholesterol particles and are a better predictor of risk than traditional lipids alone.”
As you can see, I had a few results in the intermediate risk range. 🙁 I’m still not sure if I ‘entirely’ understand what these mean, but my health consultant explained to me that having a higher number of small particles in your blood can lead to plaque that causes heart disease. AboP helps “unlock” the doors to cells and then carries cholesterol to them. This is obviously not good. And the LDL-P is the number of LDL cholesterol particles in my blood. The HDL-P is the actual number of good cholesterol particles in my blood, therefore I can see that that number is actually borderline in the high risk range!! Not good!
Thankfully, all of the other results in this category were in the optimal range, including “the ugly” Lp(a)-P, which is the worst form of LDL. It’s a trait passed down in your family and can add to your risk of heart disease and stroke. My number was very low, so that’s good.
Inflammation/Oxidation – “Inflammation of the blood vessels may cause plaque to build up and eventually burst. This could lead to a heart attack or stroke.”
The hs-CRP level shows the level of inflammation in the body, which is good. However, my increased level of Lp-PLA means that there is inflammation in my artery walls that could be unsafe when my blood pressure is high. Regularly, my blood pressure is perfect…but, then again, I’ve never had it tested when my kids are testing my patience!!! 😉 Keeping my stress under control is something that can effect the Lp-PLA. I will touch on that more later.
Metabolic – “These tests help find the risk for diabetes and heart disease at an early stage, lowering the need for insulin.”
My results for this section are good, overall, but I want to point out a couple of specific numbers. You’ll see that my insulin level is at a 1. That’s extremely low! However, I had been fasting for over 14 hours by the time I came in for this test, so that’s probably just a result of that. As you can see, I’m only in the intermediate risk range because I was below the optimal, not above it. High levels would mean there is a problem with my body’s ability to control blood sugar.
Glucose is the body’s main source of energy. Too much glucose in the blood can lead to diabetes, something that’s in my family history and I want to make sure I pay attention to over the years. Thankfully, mine’s perfectly in the optimal range, so that made me feel good. What’s interesting about the HbA1c level is that it tells how well my blood sugar has been controlled over the last 3-4 months! So, if someone started eating healthier only in the week or two prior to having this testing done, it would show up here.
Even though my vitamin D is considered in the optimal range (but barely), I feel like I could do a lot better. Now that I’ve been in the sun more due to nicer weather, I’m sure that has been helping. I’m also planning to start taking a supplement as soon as the weather gets crummy again. I think studies are now showing that most people are deficient in vitamin D. Not only can this increase your risk of heart attack, but it causes weak bones and contributes to a depressed mood. I’m really starting to make this connection lately with how I feel in the winter (here in Indiana) due to lack of outdoor time and sun!! It’s crucial for our health!
And, finally, I was really excited to see that my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) was in the optimal range!! If you’ve been following me for a while, then you may remember that I have hypothyroidism and was on Synthroid for a long time. I recently weaned myself off of it and have been trying to manage it naturally. It’s still a work in progress with the things I’ve been doing, but I’ve been trying to incorporate Brazil nuts into my diet for selenium, as well as taking a thyroid support supplement. It’s a ‘raw whole-foods’ supplement that I bought from Earth Fare. It’s much more expensive than the Synthroid pills I used to take, but I feel more comfortable taking a natural supplement that’s sourced from real food rather than a synthetic hormone. I have an appointment with my regular doctor in a few months and I’ll be tested for my thyroid levels more thoroughly then. I’m very anxious to see how I’ve been managing this on my own over the last several months. Fingers crossed I won’t need to go back on my medication!!
Renal – These test results indicate if the kidneys are functioning and filtering waste products properly.
All of these tests tell me that my kidneys are functioning perfectly. High levels of Cystatin C can suggest a decline in kidney function. The estimated glomerular filtration rate can detect kidney disease. If the rate is low enough, then you’d know your kidneys are not functioning properly. (My rate is very high! Yay!) And finally, Creatinine C is used as a biomarker of kidney function. Once again, high levels can suggest a decline in function. My health consultant said that all of the water I drink on a daily basis is excellent for my kidney function and helps prevent long-term kidney problems. I guess I’ll keep downing my pitcher of water each day! 😉
Another test result that I don’t have pictured is for Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT) which is an enzyme in the liver that helps the body metabolize protein. High levels can suggest problems with your liver. Thankfully, the optimal range is < 34 and my result was 19.
Omega-3 Index – “High levels of Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids can improve heart health and brain function, and may also ease depression. These fatty acids help make up the cell membranes in your body and are very important to your health. Having the right amounts is vital to your heart health and total health.”
Well, clearly, I have my work cut out for me in this category! I’m very close to being in the red high risk range on this one. 🙁 Honestly, though, I’m not totally surprised. I used to eat seafood fairly frequently and then I had a couple of episodes when I threw up after eating salmon. (TMI? Sorry!) Anyway, I’m sure it was a complete coincidence, but in my mind, I was done with fish for a little while. I’ve never stopped eating it, but I know my consumption has been very low over the last couple of years. My goal now is to eat seafood at least once a week (if not twice!) and increase my consumption of walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseed. I could also take an omega-3 supplement, but I’m going to try to increase my levels with my regular diet. Cardiovascular exercise can also help, but I think I’ve got that one covered already. 😉 I was at least glad to see that my omega-6 levels are optimal. You can see that all my other fatty acid levels are well within the normal ranges, as well.
Right on the bottom of this report there is a listing of seafood ranked in order of content of EPA and DHA. Looks like I’m going to need to start eating more salmon again soon! And I’ve already been trying to mix ground flaxseed into my smoothies and I had tuna recently for dinner. It’s going to take some effort, but I need to keep at it. It’s important for my heart health! And now that I know my levels are low, I need to put forth the effort to increase them. (I’m also going to work on increasing the rest of my family’s levels, as well…not just mine.)
And, finally, at the very end of the report was a list of comments regarding my personal results…
After discussing my lab results over the phone with the health consultant, I know the biggest things I need to work on are increasing my omega-3 levels by eating more seafood. Increasing my omega-3 level will also help improve my LDL particles!! So, I’ll be killing two birds with one stone by increasing my omega-3 consumption. 🙂
As for my higher inflammation numbers, she said that eating foods high in antioxidants will be very beneficial, specifically all varieties of berries and cherries. Keeping stress under control can also help lower my Lp-PLA numbers. One’s stress level is VERY important for heart health and I often wonder how my own stress affects me. When my kids are acting up and testing my patience (you know…all at the same exact time), I can sometimes feel the stress in my heart. That’s not a good sign. She agreed that I definitely need to work on managing my stress to keep my heart healthy and to improve the inflammation in my artery walls. Creating a routine for our daily schedule helps. My kids are better behaved when they know what to expect next. Of course, we can’t maintain the same schedule every single day (and I wouldn’t want to anyway), but I’m working on ways to manage this stress better. I don’t think it will ever be eliminated (at least not until they are all out of college and/or are self-supporting in their own homes…), but I know it’s something I need to work on. After our phone call, my health consultant sent me this diagram for square breathing.
She also mentioned keeping a stress journal and gave me some resources if I wanted to do that, too. As much as I like the idea of it, I’m not sure I would take the time to do it thoroughly. Most of my stress is due to my kids being at the ages they are and them not being able to control their impulses and emotions well enough yet. Dealing with that drama on a daily basis is what wears me down.
Another thing we discussed on our phone call (something I brought up) was the idea of ‘overtraining’ when it comes to working out. I’m very careful not to exercise too much because I know that is a real concern and I know reports are saying that many people overtrain on a regular basis. I’ve been reading a lot about this lately and it’s why I’ve decided NOT to run any long distance races this year. (“Chronic cardio” isn’t good for my thyroid health either, which is something I’ve learned over the past year.) I’m very careful to listen to my body and if I feel like I’m over-doing it, I slow down or take a break. She said that some symptoms to watch for to know if I’m overtraining are a decreased interest in working out, not being able to complete a workout that is usually no problem, a decrease in overall energy, or depression/mental exhaustion. Thankfully, I don’t usually feel those things so I don’t think it’s a concern at this time, but know that it’s something to watch for in your own body. Always pay attention to what your body tells you!!
I also want to put forth some effort for increasing my vitamin D. Now that the weather is nice, I try to be outside as much as I can (though not during peak sun hours from 10-3). I also plan to start taking supplements once summer is over to hopefully keep those levels high. And it’s a good thing I already love mushrooms, because those are a great source of vitamin D!
Continuing to exercise on a regular basis will be a huge benefit to my long-term health, as well as continuing to eat a variety of fresh, whole foods. I’m sure it will always been a work-in-progress, but as long as I’m continually doing the best I can to take care of my body, that’s what’s important.
So, as you know, I’m always reading about how specific foods are beneficial to our health. (For example, I know that eating chia seeds provides omega-3’s and mushrooms are a good source of vitamin D, etc.) After having this lab work done, I’m able to better make that connection in my mind, knowing what my own personal numbers are. I can see that my lack of eating enough seafood over the past couple of years has really hurt my omega-3 index. (Something that’s probably pretty common for someone living in the Midwest.) I’m only in my 30’s now, so things like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke seem like such a distant concern, but I have family history with all of these and I want to do the best I can to make sure I’m around to see my grandkids and great-grandkids! And not only do I want to see them, I want to watch them grow up and I want to be active and healthy enough to go outside and throw a ball around with them or push them on the swings. My husband and I want to be the old couple that are out hiking, riding bikes, and running races. 🙂 I really think that the actions we take over our entire lives play a huge role in our health in old age. My goal is to stay active, continue to improve the variety of healthy foods that I eat, and figure out how to manage my stress level. Or, like I said, I may just work on that after my kids leave for college. 😉 Kidding…
Now that I have these results, the idea is to repeat the test 3-4 months later so you can compare the results. I’m not sure yet if I’ll re-test right away, but I think it’s something that I will do again eventually. If I had any results fall into the high risk range, then I absolutely would want confirmation that I was moving in the right direction on all accounts. I think if I put in the effort to increase my omega-3’s and decrease my stress, I’m confident that those numbers will all move in the healthier directions.
If you are interested in having this same testing done, the lab work can be ordered through your regular doctor. You can also find more information on Health Diagnostic Laboratory’s website: myhdl.com.
If you’re in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area and you have specific questions regarding the testing, you can contact Account Manager Craig Ray at 804-363-7655 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This has all been very eye-opening to me and I’m so grateful I had this opportunity! Thank you for reading this far and allowing me to share this with you. I think health is such a fascinating topic and it’s amazing to see how everything is connected when it comes to diet, food, and exercise. Those things really do make a difference and now I have the numbers to see where I stand!
If you want to know where you stand on the scale of overall health, this testing is for you. However, if you have a family history of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, or liver disease, this type of information is crucial for you! All it takes is a little blood test and urine sample. It takes very little of your time! If your insurance will cover the testing, awesome…but even if it doesn’t, I think this is information we can all utilize. It’s a great preventative tool to keep you healthy!
Have you ever had testing like this? Were your results surprising or not what you expected? I’d love to hear from others who have had this done, especially if you’ve repeated the testing a few months later to compare your results. This is fascinating stuff!
Now…I’m off to go eat some seafood! 😉