Five Essential Tests
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | December 26, 2007

Most of us don’t go to the doctor until we’re sick. That’s a mistake. Instead of focusing on prevention, we focus on treatment. Then we wonder why a doctor can’t fix us when we’ve ignored symptoms and problems most of our lives.

Every year, there are some simple tests that we should have done regardless of age. In an upcoming CD, I’ll go over all the tests people should have done in every age group, why they should do them, and how often they should do them. But these five tests apply to everyone every year. So read the Newsletter and call your doctor to get the tests scheduled.

Blood Pressure
Hypertension is called the silent killer for a reason: most of the time, we don’t know it’s high until something goes wrong. What can go wrong? Atherosclerosis, kidney damage, and congestive heart failure to name three.

Systolic blood pressure is the pressure exerted when your heart contracts; it should be less than 120 mm Hg and 110 mm Hg is even better.

Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure exerted in your arteries when your heart is resting; it should be less than 80 mm Hg and close to 70 is even better. This one is more important because your heart has to overcome this pressure the next time it beats. Because your heart beats at least 100,000 times per day, sooner or later the pump starts to be affected by all that extra effort.

Get your blood pressure checked at least once a month and record it.

Blood Tests for Cardiovascular Disease
The amount of cholesterol carried in protein packets called lipoproteins are directly related to cardiovascular disease*. The higher your total cholesterol, the greater your risk. But that’s not all. The amount of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) is even more indicative of your risk of heart disease; that’s why it’s called the bad cholesterol. Add to that the high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL), also known as the good cholesterol, and that completes the cholesterol picture. You want the total cholesterol below 200 mg/dl, the LDL less than 100 mg/dl and even lower is better, and you want your HDL above 50 and even higher is better. But even that’s not all when it comes to blood tests for heart disease.

C-reactive protein (CRP) is an indication of inflammation in the body. When this protein is high, the rate of plaque build-up seems to accelerate. One-third of all people who have heart attacks have total cholesterol less than 200--inflammation seems to be the culprit. Your CRP should be less than 1.0 mg/L.

Blood Test for Diabetes
Most of the time when you have a blood test, your doctor will check your blood glucose. That’s good, but it can’t tell you if you’re insulin resistant (IR), which means your body produces plenty of insulin but doesn’t use it well. Serum insulin will rise before glucose, so make sure you ask your physician to have this test also. While different sources recommend different amounts, keeping serum insulin less than 12 uU/mL indicates your body is processing insulin properly to get rid of blood sugar. Your doctor may question you, but I would insist on it.

Dental Exam
Most people hate to go to the dentist, but you really need your teeth cleaned and examined twice each year. Periodontal disease can make your teeth loose, reduce the amount of bone in your jaw, and give you really, really bad breath. Even worse, it also gives the bacteria that cause ulcers and inflammation of the heart a place to grow. You need to get your teeth checked, and then take care of them as your dentist recommends to protect your overall health.

Bottom Line
At Better Life, we’re going to make 2008 the year of prevention. These five simple tests provide the basis for preventive tests everyone should have. Everyone means everyone--that includes you.

* Some of you have been reading other health newsletters and books that claim that serum cholesterol and heart disease are not related, and it’s all just a myth. It isn’t, and I’ll cover those claims in a Newsletter in 2008.
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