Blood and pathology tests are essential for treating disease, diagnosing disease and monitoring disease progression. Note the words in this statement – treatment of disease.
Blood tests give the doctor a quick snapshot of whether pathology or disease is happening in the body. This is great for the busy doctor as they can see at a glance if there are any issues that are worth further investigations.
Doctors are experts at analysing blood tests as they do this every day for a living. However ….
Disease or pathology is the end of the spectrum to Disharmony or functional imbalance. Imbalance occurs well before disease manifests. For example, it takes 20 years or more to develop heart disease as the processes that lead to this event happen in the arteries over a long time.
We don’t catch Heart disease like a common cold!
Conventional blood tests are geared towards treating disease. They do not go into lifestyle, nutrition, mental health, or analyse signs and symptoms provided by the body years in advance before disease occurs. They are generally not geared towards determining organ functionality unless there are significant disturbances to that organ or there is some pathology taking place.
Because blood tests are Medicare-funded and free to patients, doctors must order the proper tests with justification for their actions. Doctors are subject to auditing by Medicare for their blood test requests and also the amount of prescribing. As a result, many available blood tests, e.g. Vitamin and mineral status, are not ordered as a matter of course as they are not seen as essential for assessing the patients presenting symptoms.
Doctors are also constrained if the medical tests are negative or within normal range which may prohibit them from prescribing. A classic example of this is a patient who presents with some symptoms of low thyroid function, with tiredness and fatigue but the test proves that their hormone status is within normal parameters. The doctor would be reluctant to treat with medications as the tests do not prove that there is a disease to be treated, and therefore pharmaceutical treatment is not justified.
It is hard for Doctors to treat subclinical conditions like this that are not fully manifest. Subclinical conditions are a subset of signs and symptoms that show there is an imbalance but not yet manifest to full-blown disease.
The above comments are not a criticism of well-meaning Doctors, but it is just the system they live with. Many would like to order more tests or spend more than 12 minutes with a patient, to discuss their issues but the system is geared differently due to time and money constraints.
.A CONTRASTING APPROACH
Oriental Diagnosis takes a different approach and is well suited to treating sub-clinical conditions, those of a chronic nature and some Acute symptoms as well. Oriental Medicine developed thousands of years ago when it was only possible to feel and look at a patient. Asian physicians developed special tests to diagnose what was happening within the human body so that diet or Herbal medicines could be prescribed correctly.
Oriental Medicine views the outer body as a microcosm that mirrors the microcosm ( internal). This is why Asian physicians analyse external signs on the Tongue and Ear and feel the pulse to determine imbalances and functionality of the body.
For example, the top of the tongue visually mirrors the body’s internal organs, and the underneath or sublingual mirrors the body as a whole and the body’s microcirculation. The pulse reflects the whole body’s functioning, including some blood-related complaints.
Good practice involves taking photographs of the tongue and ear to detect imbalances before they progress. The tongue changes regularly in reaction to the internal environment ( the microcosm) to diet, supplements, stress and lifestyle. Such data gleaned is perfect for planning healthy eating menus or implementing a good supplementation regime. Changes in both tongue and pulse can observe in response to Natural treatment.
These visual observations can be quick, non-invasive and done remotely- photographs sent via e-mail for analysis.
Interestingly enough, some pulse signs and visuals on the tongue can pick up some Cardiovascular disease before it eventuates.
CONVENTIONAL BLOOD TESTS:
Regular blood tests are essential if a disease is suspected and as part of a preventative health program. Notice I say part of a preventive health program, not just the only agenda. These tests should be combined with regular whole health checkups.. My suggestions for regularity of blood tests are-
Once a year for those over 60 with an annual physical
Once every second year for those over 50. Assuming there are no health issues
40-50 years of age -every third year, assuming there are no health issues
Under 40 as required, but a blood lipid panel is desirable from 35 onwards or before if there is a history of Cardiovascular disease ( CVD) in the family.
If there are health issues at any age, then, of course, be guided by your doctor.
Your doctor will determine the type and amount of blood tests required.
I recommend that the following tests be done for those 50 years of age or earlier, for those who have a considered risk for CVD or good preventative medicine.
- Lipid Profile or lipid panel including Triglycerides and cholesterol
- AP0A1 and APoB serum Alipoprotein .
- HBAiC glucose
- Highly Sensitive c – reactive protein
- Uric acid levels
- Vit D levels
The explanation of these tests is provided in the glossary section of this article.
These are all routine except for the Serum Alipoproteins, which are special blood tests for measuring highly atherogenic particles. This test is now considered one of the best tests for determining Cardiovascular risk. This test is usually free but may need to be paid for in some circumstances. If your doctor is unfamiliar with this test, you may need to provide evidence from the internet as to how this test is one of the best tests to indicate cardiovascular disease risk factors. Xtra blood draws for this test are not required.
Lipid tests, however, do not determine absolute cardiovascular risk ( CVR). There is a whole range of other contributing factors such as Homocysteine, Uric acid and C – reactive protein, Alipoproeteins, Coronary calcium test etc.
Other information is also required to determine risk such as stress load, sleep patterns, exercise, daily movement, nutrition etc. All these are fed into the Algorithm for determining risk. To rely solely on cholesterol tests can be misleading. Many have died of a heart attack with low cholesterol readings. Low cholesterol has been associated with depression, low immunity and dementia. If you wish to live long, you need good cholesterol!
BLOOD TEST INTERPRETATION
Interpretation is perhaps the most critical part of this type of diagnostic tool. Within normal range does not indicate optimal health. It just means that disease is absent or one’s test is within the norm of the general population many of whom do not enjoy optimal health . If one’s cholesterol is within normal, that does not mean that one is “safe” from CVD. Most heart attack admissions to the hospital have cholesterol within the normal range. It is best if you are concerned to present blood work to a Naturopath or Nutritionist that may interpret things differently.
CORONARY CALCIUM TEST ( CCT)
This test is becoming more common and is highly recommended for anyone 45 plus. It has been around for a while yet many do not know of it.
A heart scan, also known as a coronary calcium scan, is a specialised X-ray test that provides pictures of your heart to help your doctor detect and measure calcium-containing plaque in your arteries.
A plaque inside the arteries of your heart can grow and restrict blood flow to the muscles of your heart. Measuring calcified plaque with a heart scan may allow your doctor to identify possible coronary artery disease before you have signs and symptoms.
As one cardiologist said, “To have a CCT when one is 70 s good, but most people have Coronary Calcium in the arteries in that age bracket, so its only use is to determine the amount of damage that has been caused through the years. It is much better to have the test around 45 years of age when CC is just forming, and better preventative measures can be better undertaken.”
CC develops with age and is the aging of the vascular system. Calcium builds up due to mainly diet and lifestyle factors. It has very little to do with cholesterol and more to do with inflammation and blood glucose that contribute to the wear and tear on blood vessels. Hence the use of blood tests is recommended in this article.
The test is the best to determine the vessels’ aging and is a default marker for associating the amount of dangerous soft plaques that may be developing in the background.
The higher the score, the greater the chance of having soft plaque that can rupture and cause a heart attack or stroke.
This is probably what happened to Shane Warne, the Australian cricketer who had a heart attack at 52 years of age. A buildup over the years reached a climatic end.
In my opinion, this test is mandatory for anyone who has a family history of Cardiovascular disease.
- Apolipoproteins: A lipoprotein is a biochemical assembly whose primary function is to transport hydrophobic lipid molecules in water, blood plasma or other extracellular fluids. These molecules are considered highly Atherogenic to blood vessels and a significant risk for CVD development.
- HbA1c: The amount of HbA1c formed is directly related to glucose in the blood. Red blood cells live for up to 4 months, so HbA1c indicates how much sugar there has been in the blood over the past few months. It’s different to the blood glucose test, which measures how much sugar is in the blood at that moment. High levels show a risk for Diabetes, Metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance issues, and a definite risk for CVD development.
- Uric acid is produced as a byproduct of fructose and purine metabolism. If raised, it can indicate poor metabolic sugar metabolism and increased blood pressure, and many other disorders, not just gout. High levels are a considered risk for CVD.
- Homocysteine is a defacto blood marker for inflammation within blood vessels if raised above the norm.
- Ferritin: helps to determine iron storage in the body. Low levels can mean iron deficiency, but high levels can indicate inflammation or a chronic disorder. High levels are considered a risk for CVD.
- Fibrinogen is a protein found in blood plasma that plays a role in blood clotting. Elevated levels are considered to be a risk for CVD.
- VitD: Vitamin D deficiency Is associated with vascular dysfunction , arterial stiffness, high cholesterol levels and immunity issues.
If there are any questions pertaining to this article please do not hesitate to contact me at www.adelaidenaturopath.net.au
Peter Farnsworth N.D