Understanding Lab Results to Improve Health

Today’s post from Dr. Ross provides an overview of why lab results can help us better understand and improve our health. From biomarkers as an early indicator of our health to understanding a range of references, Dr. Ross uses the WellnessFX platform to illustrate how we can achieve our optimal health.

Take Advantage of Your Biomarkers:  The human body continually emits signals that indicate how well our “human machine” is working.  We can equate these signals with the warning lights on the dashboard of your car, which might tell you that your oil pressure is low, or the engine is overheating.  For humans, laboratory testing provides us with the “warning signs” that focus our attention on areas and issues that need improvement.

The Difference Between Pathology and Prevention:  Many physicians use laboratory tests to screen for pathology.  WellnessFX lab panels include a much broader range of biochemical markers, which identify and track early warning signs as well as unique genetic traits.  These markers help to identify issues before they manifest as a disease. Practitioners can then use this information to design a blend of therapeutic options to optimize their health.

Maintaining Youthful Lab Values and Identifying Flawed Reference Ranges:  When physicians evaluate a patient’s laboratory tests, their primary concern is identifying results that lie outside the laboratory’s normal “reference range.”  However, standard reference ranges are based on “average” populations, rather than the optimal level required to maintain good health based on your personal biology.

For example, conventional medicine ignores the hormonal changes that develop in both men and women as they age.  Correcting these hormone imbalances can improve and prevent a wide range of diseases that accompany the aging process.   For example, aging men often develop elevated production of insulin and estrogen, along with low levels of testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).  However, the “standard” reference ranges for these hormones are so wide that most men would still fall into the “normal” ranges.  The “standard” reference ranges indicate that elevated insulin and estrogen levels are “normal” in elderly males, but diseases such as diabetes, heart attacks, symptoms of prostate enlargement and cancer are also associated with elevated levels of insulin and estrogen.

Identifying Early Warning Markers: I continue to be amazed that the laboratory tests ordered by most physicians do not include important markers such as homocysteine, C-reactive protein (CRP), free testosterone, vitamin D and the sub-fractions of cholesterol particle size.  When any of these lab values are not optimal, it represents a significant acceleration of disease processes.  One big problem though is that these conditions are “silent killers” because they do not produce noticeable signs or symptoms of a disease.  For example, homocysteine levels may be elevated for 20 or 30 years without any apparent symptoms, until one day you have a heart attack, or your doctor says your carotid artery is 95% blocked and you require cardiac bypass surgery.

The Importance of Re-Testing and Evaluating Trends:  A lab test only identifies biomarkers at a particular point in time.  I view health as a commitment to a long-term process, which includes understanding measuring your health at periodic intervals through laboratory tests.  This empowers an individual to evaluate trends over time and take appropriate preventative care steps.

Identifying Genetic Uniqueness:  The rapid development of genomics now enables cutting edge lab tests to identify individual genetic traits.  Identifying genetic mutations, referred to as SNPs (pronounced “snips”), allows a practitioner to make therapeutic recommendations that significantly decrease the likelihood that these genetic abnormalities will manifest as a disease.

Let me provide an example.  Some of the most common SNPs are mutations in the gene that controls the production of the enzyme that converts dietary folic acid into its active form L-methylfolate.  People who have a single SNP/mutation in this gene have a 34% reduced ability to convert folic acid to its active form; two SNPs on this gene results in a 71% reduction in the activity of the folic acid-converting enzyme.  When these SNPs go unrecognized, risks for a wide range of diseases are greatly increased.

Taking Control of Your Health.  Ultimately, your health is your personal responsibility. As we do not pay much attention to things we do not understand, health education along with data from laboratory testing, allows us to understand the meaning and significance of our personal biology. For example, many of my patients are initially not familiar with things like homocysteine or C-reactive protein.  However, after a consult, the client now understands the importance of the lab value, and what steps to take to improve his markers.

Most people do not realize that as individuals, we have a great deal of personal control over our own immune system, our own biomarkers, and our own aging process. Cutting edge laboratory testing, along with expert practitioner knowledge, is an effective tool to manage our own health.

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.