Monday, August 22, 2016

It’s in the Blood

Regularly scheduled health screenings are important, especially as you grow older. An annual blood screening is one of the most important components for prevention of degenerative diseases. Blood tests, if the right tests are done, and done correctly, serve as a snapshot of your current health, and these tests can detect potential health problems sooner in their progression. Early detection can result in a more effective plan to manage the health concern, whether that be taking preventative measures, eliminating the concern, or adjusting your lifestyle to live with the condition. More than half the information in the average patient’s medical chart comes from diagnostic test results, including blood tests.

What I mean by “the right tests are done, and done correctly” is that there are a large variety of blood tests available. So in order to benefit from the results of a blood test, you need to be sure that your doctor is requesting the right one. Most doctors require only minimal testing for their patients, mainly to monitor the more common health concerns such as cholesterol, blood sugar levels, liver and kidney function, and blood cell count and size. However, as we grow older we need to focus on more than just the vitals to prevent potential life threatening illnesses and disease.

Men and women both need to monitor hormone imbalances, memory impairment, bone loss, weight gain or loss, and mental state. A lot of the common illnesses and diseases related to aging can be slowed down and prevented through early detection. Early detection can be accomplished through more extensive blood tests. Most tests for men and women are basically the same. However, there are certain tests that should be considered that are more gender specific.

I don’t think it’s my place to specifically breakdown each blood test that is available, including the more common ones. I’m not a physician nor a scientist, nor am I an expert in this field by any means. I can give you my recommendations based on the tests I have taken, and I can list some that I have found in my research that may be of interest to you in determining what is needed for your personal health checklist.

Ever since I turned fifty, I have had the need to pay closer attention to my hormone levels and my bone density. My family has a medical history of osteoporosis. Therefore, it is important to me and to my doctor to regularly check my levels, including bone density. Prevention is key here. Osteoporosis does not have to be a common disease for the elderly. It can be prevented or prolonged. Through additional blood tests, I have discovered that I have a thyroid issue. It appears through blood tests that the concern has been diagnosed early enough that hopefully through time I will be able to better manage my thyroid health and slow the damaging effects of this issue considerably. Look for future articles on this topic.

Here's a basic list of components to be tested for:
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC)
    • Red blood cells (RBC)
    • White blood cells (WBC)
  • Chemistry Panel
    • Cardiovascular
    • Endocrine
    • Hepatobiliary
    • Kidney
  • Hormone Levels
    • Total and Free Testosterone
    • Progesterone (Female Specific)
    • Prostate-Specific Antigen; PSA (Male Specific)
    • DHEA-S
    • Estradiol
    • Homocysteine
    • Cardio C-reactive protein (CRP)
Part of having a blood test performed correctly is being appropriately prepared for the test. Before the blood test screening, be sure to inform your doctor of any medications, supplements, and vitamins (herbs or other) that you are taking. Your doctor will inform you which items you may have to forgo for the testing purposes and which ones will not affect the blood test results. It’s best to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet in plenty of time before your scheduled blood test to get the best results. Also, do not drink alcohol or engage in any non-prescribed substances prior to the blood test. If the blood test is considered a “fasting” blood test, then it is recommended not to eat or drink anything at least 12 hours or more before the test. However, continue to drink water unless otherwise directed by your doctor.  Always check with your doctor prior to the blood test to know how to properly prepare for the most accurate results.

I hope you found this article informative and easy to understand. I hope you investigate further what the best blood tests and medical screenings are for you and include them in your healthy checklist to refer back to time and time again.

Article References:

The Lifesaving Benefits of Annual Blood Screening, by Penny Baron. May 2005. Life Extension Magazine.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Fresh, Fit, and Over 50 – A Journey to Great Health and Longevity

Growing “OLD” doesn’t have to be a “life sentence”. We can actually extend the years and make them into gratifying, energetic years by taking care of our bodies and protecting them from those very things that cause aging in the first place.

As we age, our bodies are more susceptible to a variety of illnesses and diseases, including respiratory diseases, Alzheimer’s, Osteoporosis, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, obesity, depression, more frequent accidental injuries, teeth and mouth conditions, and the list goes on – all of which are preventable! 

Arthritis, for instance, is the leading chronic condition that affects us as we age. Although wear and tear on the body’s joints is inevitable over time, there are ways to better manage and live a practically pain free lifestyle. Heart disease is another condition that is more common as we age. In fact, it is the leading cause of death, BUT it too is preventable. 

Diet and lifestyle are important parts to sustaining longevity and feeling good as we age. Properly nourish the body by incorporating minimally processed and nutrient-dense wholefoods, and hydrate the body by drinking lots of water. Treat yourself to daily low-impact cardio and stretching, and engage in strength and resistance training several times a week. This will allow you to actively improve on your flexibility, balance, and core while keeping your body in tip-top shape. Enhance your ability to move freely as you grow older so you can stay off the rocker! It can be done!

While treatment is helpful, prevention is key. Frequently get screened. Check your blood work. Understand your body and your individual risks for different diseases before they sneak up on you. The sooner you become familiar with your health, the sooner you can take control and heal your body.

Having a good mental attitude is just as important as having great physical health. A healthy mind is absolutely necessary for keeping a healthy body. The mind is the operator for the machinery. The less stress your operator is under, the smoother your machinery will perform. Take time for rest and relaxation, and minimize your stress.

You are in control of your health. By incorporating healthy lifestyle habits, self-awareness, and stress management into your everyday routines, you can significantly reduce and slowdown the otherwise inevitable consequences of aging.

I now invite you to join me on my journey to a longer and healthier life over 50.

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All About Pain

The subject of pain is very personal to me. Pain should be considered an important part of life. It’s the one trigger that lets us know that we have a problem that needs to be taken care of. Whether that means an injury, health ailment, emotional challenge, or whatever the issue may be, pain lets us know the urgency. However, the chronic condition of pain is a sign that the issue is deeper, and the effects can be more damaging to long-term quality of life if not treated properly. I personally have been challenged with chronic pain most of my adult life. It is a serious issue and a constant concern for anyone who may suffer with chronic pain.
Chronic pain may be a direct response to acute pain. Acute pain is usually the result of tissue damage, such as a broken bone, skin burn, headache, muscle cramp, sore throat, or sprained wrist or ankle. Acute pain goes away after the damage heals or if the cause of pain is removed. Pain is triggered by the nerve cells. According to Arizona Pain Specialists, the simplified answer is that when the damage occurs, it signals the nerve cells to signal the brain that there is an urgency for repair, resulting in “acute” pain. Chronic pain is the persistent trigger after the healing or repair from an acute pain trigger. This continued stimulation of the nerves causes changes and damage to the nervous system. Many times chronic pain results when the true cause of acute pain is not discovered, such as with many cases of lower back pain, chronic illnesses such as Lupus, some types of arthritis, and even cancer. Pain is the most common trigger of injury and disease, with varying ranges of intensity from a minor ache to an unbearable agonizing trigger.

One major health cause of chronic pain is inflammation. Chronic inflammation results in joint pain, fatigue, a variety of illnesses and diseases, stubborn fat, and a list of other ailments that will certainly speed up the aging process. Fortunately, most inflammation can be reduced if not removed altogether. This can be done through proper detoxification, diet, relaxation, exercise, and rest. By taking care of your overall health, you can help prevent inflammation that would otherwise result in illness and disease that may create chronic pain.  Did you know that more people visit doctors for chronic pain than any other health or medical concern? I recently read that there are more than 100 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain. That’s a “painful” statistic! Unfortunately, a lot of people who suffer from pain never actually address the root cause, so they continue to suffer, more than likely for the rest of their lives. Additionally, current medical therapies can sometimes lead to a host of negative side effects, including nutrient depletion and addiction, especially if the root cause is not determined.
I personally have suffered from chronic back pain since I was about 16-17 years old. I suffered an injury, which basically caused damage to my lower back. Throughout the years I have tried practically every type of therapy and prescription remedy available. In addition to the lower back injury, I suffered from Osteoarthritis. I was actually scheduled for lower back surgery in 2006. Fortunately, the specialist advised me against it. He told me that I may or may not find relief, as a chronic condition like mine can continue as I age, especially since I suffered from Osteoarthritis. It could have been financially devastating if I had gone through with the expensive surgery, only to have temporary relief. Furthermore, not all people who do the surgeries have positive results. In fact, I have known several people who have done more than one back surgery, and they still suffer from chronic back pain. In some cases, the surgery resulted in more damage. Surgery is a serious step for chronic back pain. Be sure to check out all options available to you before making a decision to do so.

Did you know that according to the American Chiropractic Association, about 80% of the world’s population will experience back problems at some time in their lives? Back pain is one of the leading causes of disability. More reason to take care of your health, strengthen your core, and eliminate as much stress and inflammation as possible!

Although I still have pain, I have learned how to manage my pain. Sometimes I feel completely free of it. I have found this freedom through improving my lifestyle and overall health. It does get more challenging as I age, but I am always working towards feeling good, youthful, and pain free!

Learning to Live Pain Free through Lifestyle Changes

Over time I will be sharing different ways to manage chronic pain and suggesting lifestyle changes that could help potentially eliminate the pain altogether. Remember the Health Checklist I posted previously? The checklist is a good place to start to address chronic pain and begin the healing process. One of the main keys to healthy living and longevity is monitoring your health over time through scheduled check-ups and screenings, as mentioned in the Health Checklist.   Keeping yourself healthy also means reducing or eliminating as much chronic pain as possible. Remember that chronic pain is a trigger that tells you there is something wrong, and constant inflammation may result in chronic pain. Work towards finding the root cause of your pain, then create a healthy program to begin the healing process. To your health!

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