The following passage is adapted from The End of Illness by Dr. David B. Agus. Find out more about The End of Illness at the ABC News special section.
Have your doctor run the following tests, all of which can be obtained through a simple blood draw:
Fasting lipid profile: This is a group of tests that are often ordered together to determine risk of coronary heart disease; they include your cholesterol and triglyceride numbers. You have to fast for about twelve hours prior to the test, but you can drink water.
Levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein: As previously indicted, this is a biomarker of inflammation, which can point to your risk for cardiovascular trouble, among other things, if your levels are high.
Comprehensive meatbolic panel (CMP): This is a frequently ordered panel of tests that gives your doctor important information about the current status of your kidneys, liver and electrolyte and acid/base balance as well as all of your blood sugar and blood proteins.
Complete blood cell count (CBC): This is one of the most commonly ordered blood tests, which is the measure of the concentration of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets in the blood. The size of your red cells can be a good indicator of nutritional deficiencies. You want this number, called the mean corpuscular volume, or MCV, to be between 85 and 95 fl. You also want to see that your red cells come in all different sizes, which shows cells at different stages in their life span.
Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test: Your thyroid is your master metabolism hormone. If it's out of balance, guess what? So is your whole system. An underperforming thyroid (hypothyroidism) is one of the most underdiagnosed conditions in America, yet it's incredibly common -- especially in women. It's believed that 20 percent of all women have a "lazy" thyroid, but only half of women get diagnosed. Unfortunately, no single symptom or test can properly diagnose hypothyroidism. To arrive at a trustworthy diagnosis, you'll also need to look at your symptoms. These can include weight gain, fatigue, constipation, hair loss, and even shortened eye-brows, as one of your thyroid's functions is to regulate how quickly your cells replenish themselves. When your levels of theyroid hormone drop below normal, the effect can be seen in almost every cell in your body, including your hair follicles. To fix a thyroid problem, you'll also need to look at the whole picture -- all the things that make up your lifestyle. (A rarer condition called hyperthyroidism happens when the thyroid goes into overdrive, producing too much thyroid hormone. This also has negative effects on the body, triggering heart and bone problems among other things).