The End of Illness: 6 Blood Tests You Should Ask Your Doctor To Do


Hemoglobin A1C: To understand what a hemoglobin A1C is, think in the following simple terms: Suagr sticks to things, and when it's around for a long time, it gets harder and harder to remove. In the body, sugar also sticks, particularly to proteins. The red blood cells that circulate in the body live for about a hundred days before they die, and when sugar sticks to these cells, it gives doctors an idea of how much sugar has been around for the preceding three months. In most labs, the normal range is 4 to 5.9 percent. In poorly controlled diabetes, it's 8 percent or above, and in well-controlled patients it's less than 7 percent. The benefit of measuring hemoglobin A1C is that it gives a more reasonable view of what's happening over time (about three months), and the value does not bounce as much as finger-stick blood-sugar measurements. When there are no guidelines for using hemoglobin A1C as a screening tool, it gives a physician a good idea that someone is diabetic if the value is elevated. It's one of the few tools doctors can use to look at an "average" in you that you cannot fib. Diabetes can just happen. It's not just about being overweight, so if you suddenly develop this disease for whatever reason, you don't want to miss that.

Although your doctor will test your vitals, you need to remember that she is only testing these metrics at one particular moment in time. She won't have running averages for your numbers over the past six months. While it's common for many of us to keep track of our weight throughout the year, we might also want to track other metrics -- and should -- if we're at risk for certain things. You can easily track your temperature and blood pressure using kits you can buy at your local pharmacy. You may want to check your blood pressure at different times of the day two or three times a week to see what kind of fluctualtions you're getting. Make a spreadsheet and start to record the numbers at certain intervals throughout the day. Add notes to indicate what's going on when you take the test, such as that you've just had a relaxing glass of wine or just got off a troubling phone call that made you tense. Bring that spreadsheet with you to your doctor.

NOTE for Men ONLY: When you get a PSA test, have your testosterone levels checked as well. Testosterone controls levels of PSA, so your body's production of testosterone will affect your parameters for "high" versus "low" levels of PSA. What's considered high for one person might not be the case for another person. Also, abstain from sexual activity and bicycle riding for several days prior to the test. While these activities don't affect the PSA level of everyone, they can negatively influence results and cause undue stress if you're told to repeat the test.

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