Can You Measure Healthy Aging?
What if there were a set of blood tests that could give you a heads-up on potential health issues? Wouldn’t it be helpful to have a way to gauge whether your health plan is working for you or not? How about focusing on acquiring health instead of avoiding illness? Progressive health care practitioners are helping clients reach their health potentials with the help of some simple, relatively inexpensive tests to predict who’s at risk of unhealthy aging. What’s even better, the results of these tests can help formulate your personalized “plan of action” to create health as well as reduce your risk and treat disease.
Modern medicine needs a new way to predict who’s at risk of unhealthy aging. The standard panel of labs done at the annual physical exam hasn’t changed or been updated in the past generation or so. Wouldn’t it be great to move away from a disease–oriented paradigm to one that provides guidance about not only how to prevent disease but what does it take to maximize one’s health. Many are not interested in adding more years to their lives unless they can also add more life to those years. This requires looking at some of the same tests that we’ve always been measuring but perhaps interpreting them through the lens of functionality and prevention instead of pathology and disease. It also requires taking advantage of more current developments in science and technology to incorporate newer tests that tell us more about how one’s lifestyle choices and habits are affecting one’s health.
The good news is that there is emerging a new concept of “predictive biomarkers” that can actually help the informed practitioner and health consumer focus on what it takes to age well.
Most of these tests are easily accessible and many of them are oftentimes routinely done but not interpreted with an eye to prevention. Some of the tests will require working with a health professional that has access to a specialty lab that offers functional diagnostic testing. I recommend that clients have several of these tests done at least annually as part of their “wellness check”.
Here’s the list according to Dr. Russell Jaffe:
- Hemoglobin A1c (HA1c ) - Blood sugar dysregulation, diabetic risk and insulin resistance
- High sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hsCRP) – Cellular repair and inflammation status
- High Sensitivity Homocysteine (hs Homocysteine) – Methylation challenges, detoxification capability, & cardiovascular risk
- IgG Food sensitivity testing – Food sensitivities; immune challenges, leaky gut potential
- First AM Urine - Mineral need assessment and cellular acid/alkaline balance
- 25-OH cholecalciferol (Vitamin D level) - Cellular equilibrium and communication; ability to handle inflammation; potential bone health issues, acid-alkaline balance
- Omega-3 Index – Adequacy of Omega-3 levels to manage inflammation and oxidative stress.
- DNA Oxidative Stress (8-OHdG) – Indicative of potential for cellular damage by Oxidative Stre ss
In working with my clients, I have found the following additional tests to help round out Dr. Jaffe’s list:
- Fasting Blood glucose and insulin levels –oftentimes insulin levels are elevated before glucose or HA1c. Tracking insulin and glucose levels is providing more of an indicator of health risk for chronic degenerative illnesses than cholesterol numbers.
- Gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT) –a liver enzyme that can be a predictor of poor detoxification capability and inadequate levels of a key anti-oxidant called glutathione. It also provides an early clue to the development of “fatty liver”, a developing health problem
- Fractionated lipoprotein profile – a more sensitive marker of cardiovascular risk measuring the size of one’s cholesterol particles not just the number
- BioImpedance Analysis – a very accurate assessment of cellular vitality, fluid dynamics and body compo sition
There are many benefits to using these biomarkers, not the least of which is the fact that they reflect the more current science as to the most common causes of degenerative health today. Issues related to inflammation and oxidative stress, nutritional imbalances, and potential immune system imbalances can all be identified with the addition of these biomarkers. Although each Predictive Biomarker is a separate marker of a specific aspect of physiology, human organ systems are interdependent. When one biomarker is no longer at optimum function, the entire system can become distressed, less resilient and more at risk.
According to Dr. Jaffe: “This proactive approach is evidence based and has been shown to lower costs while enhancing individual outcomes, reducing risks, and adding 'years to life and life to years.' This also helps to fulfill the triple aim of better health, better care, and lower costs”.