by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
A big part of staying healthy is being informed. If you know what your body is saying, you can begin to think about what you can do to make positive changes. Lab results help us to track progress and provide us with power and incentive.
I would like to help you look at some vital information so you can get a better understanding of some common medical tests. By having a basic knowledge of these routine tests, you can better advocate for yourself.
- Mammogram: assesses breast health
- TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone): assesses thyroid health
- CRP and hs-CRP (C-reactive protein): checks for inflammatory processes
- Iron and ferritin: checks iron levels
- DEXA Scan (Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry): bone density test
- Vitamin D: Checks Vitamin D levels
- LH and FSH (Luteinizing Hormone and follicle stimulating hormone): assesses menopausal symptoms, polycystic ovary disorder, or fertility issues
- NTx (N-telopeptide): checks for bone health
- Blood glucose: assesses for diabetes
- Lipid profile: assesses for cardiovascular risk
Within “normal” limits– we prefer “optimal”
Many conventional practitioners look at lab results based on a “normal” range. When I view my patient’s results, I interpret results using a narrower scale. I usually take the average of the two extremes, plus 25% on either side of that number. If my patient’s result falls outside of this range, we want to initiate some changes. By being proactive, we can often avoid complications before they become permanent or more severe.
Much of today’s medical practice is aimed at fixing problems once they occur rather than at the prevention. Many practitioners use lab testing and imaging studies to diagnosis disease rather than looking at them to paint a picture of a woman’s overall health and well-being before illness sets in. Many women tell me they had no idea they were sick until their disease had progressed to the point of requiring prescription drugs to treat their ailments.
The truth is, most medical offices are so busy most primary care physicians don’t have or take the time to go over each test result or its meaning with their patients. In today’s healthcare system, you are your own best resource and can learn to advocate for yourself.
Charting your own course to wellness
Even the very best doctor can’t know what it’s like to live in your body. We all have our own personal stories and are living our own lives. Our individual histories and our present circumstances influence our health in multiple ways, making us all unique. Blood levels which are normal for you, might not suit another woman at all, just like a weight which is healthy for me, might cause problems for someone else.
All practitioners agree some lab test results require immediate attention, no matter who the patient may be. For most patients though, we’re reviewing small changes. When I review any of the tests I’ve listed above, I compare them to past results and look at the patient as a whole. If I see a pattern, we can intervene quickly, before disease sets in or worsens.
Medical testing and modern technology, coupled with the wisdom of your own body, allow us to prevent disease and assure you of a long and healthy future. If we use our knowledge, not to react, but to proactively act by taking the steps necessary to prevent illness, we will achieve wonderful outcomes.