At Kalibra, we believe in objective data and hard science as the basis for intentional health. And without a doubt, the starting point for a conversation about that has to be with the current state and functioning of the main systems of our body –because it is a combination of many systems that have to effectively work together for peak performance. It’s why we start our assessment process there. Simple blood tests are the best storytellers: they help us understand if we have a disease or optimal metabolism, if our kidneys and liver are healthy, and if our hormones are at the right levels. In order to be proactive about our health, we have to be clear on what we aim to achieve and create specific measures for the progress towards that goal. With the right data, we can determine our baselines and create a specific plan for fixing any imbalances, before they deteriorate or impede our quality of life. We acknowledge that blood testing is not quite as instantaneous or pain-free as other forms of self-tracking, but it is by far the best studied and perhaps most reliable, science-based dataset about ourselves. As we make changes to our lifestyle, fitness and diet, it gives us an objective marker of the results they are delivering.
What is bloodwork, exactly?
Lab tests, bloodwork, biomarkers or blood tests all mean one thing – taking out a sample of your blood and then analyzing it professionally in a lab. A blood sample can be extracted either via the vein using a needle or via a fingerpick, and hopefully one day via non-invasive measures, though the technology isn’t there quite yet. The extracted blood samples are run through biochemical analysis to look at different biomarkers, before being compared to common reference ranges (to assess normal/abnormal) The data can then be used to evaluate underlying bodily functions –even down to one’s mineral levels. One problem we are trying to address is how blood testing is often too technical and jargon-filled for people to make useful sense of. This is partly a problem of the unconsidered presentation of results, and also an artifact of medical knowledge being the preserve of medical professionals. The reality today is that you’re far more likely to have a doctor confuse you, rather than explain in an intuitive, helpful and engaging manner. For whatever reason that remains the case, we’re on a mission to disrupt this practice and change it for the better. The truth is that understanding your lab results isn’t actually that complicated. Here’s how it works: your blood test results are first compared to a simple reference range, and what is important for you to know initially is whether the result falls within the range of normal. And if not, what does that indicate and what steps can be taken to address it.
Why is regular blood testing important?
It can feel like blood tests are only there for when a problem exists. However, keeping tabs on what is going on inside your body is your core advantage in preventing problems down the line, and early detection of any issues gives you the best opportunity to course correct. We’ve put together what we consider the key reasons anyone should consider regular blood tests:
1. Objective and reliable baseline for health and wellbeing
By understanding your individual health data, you have the best idea of what you actually need to focus on. It enables you to meaningfully improve your health, rather than following for the latest fad.
2. Get an early warning for metabolic disease
Diabetes, obesity or insulin resistance (sometimes termed diabesity) is one of the major health problems facing us today. Within our blood, certain biomarkers exist to provide an early-warning system for these issues, which give us the best head-start in managing them.
3. Fixing small imbalances before they snowball
While blood tests often are used when looking at diseases, the benefit of regular blood tests is in noticing the small abnormalities, and their rate of change. That is a very valuable tool for preventing disease as early as possible.
4. Understanding the functional organs that purify your body:
Your liver and kidneys are the window to your body. The liver is your detoxification system. Build up and abnormal levels of protein, albumin, globulin, or other markers could indicate imperfect detoxification of your body – a substantial health risk.
Your kidneys help regulate things such as blood pressure, acidity levels, mineral concentration and water composition of the blood. The health and function of your kidneys can be seen by evaluating your blood and checking blood urea nitrogen (BUN) as well as uric acid, creatinine, and others. Maintaining good renal function and noticing poor drug interactions are key benefits of regular assessment.
5. Hormones – for health, mental clarity and emotional balance
There are several important hormones in our body such as testosterone, Progesterone, DHEA-S, and Estradiol. For example, research has indicated a relationship between lower levels of bioavailable free testosterone and depression in men, as well as correlations with diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Getting a baseline of your levels and directional changes overtime is a key tool in our arsenal to improve the ageing process.
6. Maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system via homocysteine testing
Research has shown that elevated homocysteine (an amino acid) levels in your blood indicate a higher risk factor for coronary artery disease and stroke, as well as increased depression and increase in bone fractures. Keeping an eye on homocysteine is the first line of defence against cardiovascular disease.
7. Inflammation management and C-reactive protein
Our bodies need a certain amount of stress in order to grow and optimise, and they manage this process through inflammation. Its function is to remove an injury or damage in the body and its cells. In the short-term inflammation is a normal process, but long-term, elevated levels of inflammation can indicate problems like atherosclerosis, heart disease, arthritis, autoimmune conditions and even cancer. Blood tests looking at C-reactive protein (CRP), a sensitive marker of systemic inflammation, have become increasingly popular. Various studies have shown how CRP can be used as a predictor of coronary heart disease and other diseases of the cardiovascular system. For athletes, especially endurance athletes, C-reactive protein (CRP) has emerged as a test to check on systematic overtraining.
What are the benefits for me?
1. Preventive care
Prevention is better than cure, and early detection is the key variable that improves our chances of avoiding or mitigating a serious health issue. Many hearts, liver, kidney conditions and health risks can be diagnosed using blood testing.
2. Interpretation for weight, energy or mood fluctuations
As we make changes to our lifestyles, or our bodies undergo sudden change, we are often dealing with an incomplete picture of why things are happening the way they are. Thyroid, liver and kidney issues could be an underlying reason, and there is no way to know unless you test.
3. Macro and micro nutrients, and nutritional requirements
Proper nourishment is an essential part of maintaining good health, but we are often unable to tell what’s good for us or just popular trend-marketing. A nutritional deficiency can lead to issues like fatigue, headaches, insomnia, body odor, muscle cramps, and constipation. Addressing nutritional deficiencies head on is a great strategy for optimising performance and health.
4. Sex Hormones
Your lab results keep a record of testosterone and estrogen levels in the body. If you experience low libido levels, erectile dysfunction, infertility issues, or disinterest in sexual activities, the reason could be a drop in the levels of your sex hormones which can be addressed with supplementation and other methods.
5. Confidence that it’s not more than flu.
Many ongoing serious infections start in your body with flu-like symptoms and can go untreated for years. Blood tests give us much-needed reassurance.
6. Personalising and customisation of your regimen.
Your body is unique, so your health program should be fully customized to your individual needs. By undergoing regular blood tests, you can get the exact numbers that will help you plan your diet, training regime, supplementation and rest protocols.
Finally, the behavioural angle
At Kalibra, we look at the behavioural aspect of objective data as a key part of how we can be intentional about health. First and foremost, knowing that something needs attention is a great motivator to make changes to our lifestyles. However, regular bloodwork is important for a second reason – kalibrating our objective data vs our subjective perceptions. We regularly misremember things and have an overly optimistic view of our own habits. Indeed, we often see regular slip-ups as one-offs, before erasing them from our memories. Consider this: we swear we don’t eat carbs and sugar, but still have elevated glucose and H1C. That could be because of bad habits, or it could be the sign of a more serious condition. The only way to be absolutely sure is to have a scientifically objective benchmark on our body’s current condition. That is how we can make positive adjustments, or mitigate the mind games we play with ourselves. But that’s the subject of another post here.