Annual Physical Exam Routine Labs to Consider

An annual physical examination performed by a primary care provider (PCP), is a good proactive measure people can take to check their overall health and potentially identify health risks prior to the onset of chronic illness.  During the exam, the PCP will take height and weight measurements, listen to the heart and lungs, and examine the body for abnormalities.  But one of the most important, and often overlooked, components of a thorough annual physical examination is lab testing.  By not asking your doctor to perform these tests each year, you are putting yourself at risk.

Lab Tests That Should Be Done Every Year

There are five crucial lab tests that should be performed each year during an annual physical:

Metabolic Markers:  Metabolic markers such as hemoglobin A1c(HgA1C), lipid panel, and fasting glucose and insulin, indicate to some degree how macronutrients a person eats are being processed.  Most annual physicals will include glucose level and a basic lipid panel.  But for patients that are at an increased risk for heart disease, an extensive lipid panel can help determine if there is an increased risk for heart disease from cholesterol levels or not.  Patients are frequently told that their cholesterol levels are high when they are not actually a risk. This is why at Heritage we may recommend a comprehensive Cardio IQ test which is much more specific in evaluating all your cholesterol particles.

Complete Blood Count and Metabolic Panel:  These two blood tests provide a wealth of information and are typically ordered at an annual physical exam.  The tests are vital in understanding electrolyte levels, hydration status, liver function, kidney function, and blood cell values.  They also would indicate if a person is dealing with an acute or chronic infection, is anemic, or has blood clotting issues.

Broad Thyroid Panel:  Some doctors may check one or two thyroid markers.  The ones checked are usually the TSH and total T4.  While these give a bit of insight into how the thyroid is functioning, there are six additional thyroid values that should be included:  Free T3, Free T4, Total T3, Reverse T3, anti Thyroglobluin Ab, and anti TPO Ab.  Should any of these test values not be optimal, patients may be put on a program to prevent thyroid dysfunction or disease. This through evaluation is part of Heritage’s in depth Integrative/Functional Approach to your whole health.

Essential Nutrients:  Vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, and magnesium are vital nutrients for optimal bodily function but are frequently overlooked as part of a routine annual physical exam.  For a variety of reasons, people are often deficient in these nutrients and may need supplements or dietary changes if their levels are not optimal.  In addition to improving how one feels, having optimal levels can help with a number of health issues.  Having optimal levels of vitamin D, for example, can improve heart health, dental health, lower extremity function, reduce the risk of falls and fractures, improve bone density, and help prevent cancer.

Inflammatory Markers:  Inflammatory markers such as  High Sensitivity-C. Reactive protein (hsCRP) and homocysteine are rarely checked during a routine annual physical exam.  hsCRP, can indicate the patient’s general inflammatory status and even mild increases are associated with increased risk for cardiac events or depression.  An elevated level in these markers indicate that something is creating an inflammatory response.  Whether the inflammation be from emotional stress, physical trauma, oxidative stress, allergy, environmental toxicity, food sensitivities, or a sedentary lifestyle, the elevated level can indicate an issue that needs to be addressed.

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